By Jim Kostecki
Over the past few weeks I have thought long and hard about the Luis Suarez incident. It has caused me significant grief, anger, confusion, and pity, among other things. Is Luis Suarez capable of these accusations? Why would Patrice Evra make this story up? How will the F.A. view this incident? What evidence is there to charge Suarez? Is my Liverpool idol a racist? These are the questions I have wanted answered. Not just for my own peace of mind, but for the game itself. Football deserves better than this.
I knew these answers would not and will not come. I have accepted the fact that we may never know the “facts” regarding the incident, and Luis Suarez – presuming he is innocent – may never be exonerated from the vicious accusations made by both the media and the public. But it wasn’t until I read an article on the blog News Frames entitled Media on Racism: Part 1 – Churnalism that I was able to fully grasp the erroneous and reckless garbage being fed to me by the media. The author of this article beautifully lays out the inconsistencies of the FA report – something that every journalist, both in England and abroad, has failed to do. In fact, these inconsistencies are so exposed in the report that I get sick to my stomach thinking about how the character of Suarez is not only called into question, but vociferously attacked based on one man’s word. That man is Patrice Evra.
The investigation by the F.A. and its subsequent report concluded that, “…Mr Suarez’s evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the evidence, especially the video footage.”. Simply put, Patrice Evra was credible and Suarez was not.
How could such a serious charge be brought against a player based on an accusation with inconclusive video evidence and no other witnesses, including Evra’s Spanish-speaking team mates. If that wasn’t enough, Evra himself was banned for four games in 2008 for an altercation with a Chelsea groundskeeper and claiming that he had racially abused him – a claim that could not be proven.
The blog on News Frames points out further inconsistencies that would call Evra’s credibility into question:
- ‘Initially Evra claimed (in English) that Suarez said, at one point: “I don’t talk to you because you niggers” (para 131). He later withdrew this claim, after realising Suarez had said, in Spanish, “negro”, not “nigger”.’
- ‘Evra, by his own admission (para 92), threatened to “punch” Suarez during the game…’
- ‘Evra had altered his account – he initially told Canal+ TV that Suarez used the racial term “at least ten times” (para 154), but later claimed that this was just “a figure of speech” – (para 159)’
It is clear that the F.A. either failed to consider or blatantly ignored the obvious inconsistencies in Evra’s testimony and past behavior. Furthermore, unlike Suarez, Evra was allowed to watch a video replay of the incident while the independent panel was interviewing him. Would Suarez’s testimony be “unreliable” had he been allowed to watch the video replay?
Journalist Neil Custis – whose newspaper’s name will not be mentioned – voiced his sentiments on the BBC Five Live last Friday:
“What we have to remember…there’s one victim in this, and that is Patrice Evra. From covering Manchester United, I’ve met [Patrice] Evra a number of times and he is one of the most eloquent, intelligent footballers I’ve ever met. The guy knows 4 languages…and are we really to believe that this player…has made up these allegations?”
Yes Neil, I believe a player who is capable of persuading his entire national team to protest a practice at the World Cup, a player that has been banned in the past for false racial claims, a player that is known as a hothead on the field, is capable of falsely accusing Suarez. I don’t care if he speaks Pig Latin.
Culture versus Culture
The Suarez cases ultimately boils down to a clash of cultures. In England – and most other English-speaking countries – any use of the word ‘black’ or ‘negro’ (pronounced nee-grow) to negatively describe someone is deemed racist. However, in Spanish-speaking countries, in particular Uruguay, the word negro (pronounced neh-grow) may indeed have a literal English translation of “black,” but is rarely racially charged. Therefore, it was up to the F.A. to determine if Suarez’s use of the Spanish word ‘negro’ was used in a derogatory manner intended to insult Evra’s skin color – and they failed miserably. The decision to ban Suarez sent a clear message: What is acceptable elsewhere is not acceptable here.
Cultural context was thrown out the window. Suarez was guilty the moment Manchester United lodged a formal complaint. Suarez was used as an example, and it’s a shame for England, it’s a shame for the fight against racism, and it’s a shame for the game of football.
The public – with the help of lazy and often disgraceful journalists – is very quick to judge perceived wrongdoers. Guilty until proven innocent is the school of thought – just ask the 2007 Duke Men’s Lacrosse team. In a way, writing this article has been very therapeutic. My heart goes out to Suarez, whom I whole-heartedly believe did not intend to racially abuse Evra. But it does not matter what I think. It does not matter what Patrice Evra thinks. It does not matter what Neil Custis or any other journalist thinks. In this case, what matters is what the three individuals appointed by the F.A. think.
Please take time listen to the legendary John Barnes give his take on racism and how it is essential to understand the meaning of race before understanding racism.
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You can follow Jim Kostecki on twitter @jim_kostecki