Jude Collins

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Suarez - outrageous, eh?

Who would be in Luis Suarez’s shoes this morning? Or boots. The Uruguayan, who's been central to   Liverpool F C’s recently revival, has been banned for eight games and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra,  a black Man United player. It seems Suarez admitted to calling Evra “a negro”. (Evra, on the other hand, told Suarez “Don’t touch me, you South American”.)

Times change, don’t they? When I was young, to refer to a black man as a negro was considered polite, and to refer to him as a black man was near to insulting.  Now it's the other way round. Readers of the work of Mark Twain will know that he features in Huckleberry Finn a character referred to affectionately as “Nigger Jim”. And the earliest joke I can remember featured Paddy the Englishman, Paddy the Irishman, Paddy the Scotchman and a bottle of whiskey.  In short, what’s acceptable and even commendable in one age is far from permissible in another.  So- did Suarez’s offence merit an eight-match ban plus a £40,000 fine?

I believe No. The FA would claim they're sending a signal that racist abuse will not be tolerated on the football field (or off it); but while I’d applaud their objective, their means in this case is a sledge-hammer cracking a nut. “Negro” isn’t politically correct nowadays but it’s hardly abusive. Then there's the fact that Suarez himself is of mixed race – his grandfather was black. Does that matter?

Well, there’s an unwritten code which allows members of a minority to use pejorative terms which, if used by those outside the group, would invoke outrage.  It’s not twelve months since I heard an Irish joke told by an Irishman to a company of Irish people, and everyone appeared to enjoy it.  Had it been told by an Englishman he'd have been lucky to get out of the room alive.  So is Suarez’s grandfather a factor in his favour?

Reluctantly, because  I think Suarez is a truly gifted footballer and Kenny Dalglish  a truly impressive manager, the answer is no, Suarez’s grandfather shouldn’t be a factor. If it’s wrong for outsiders to insult a group, then it’s stupid and self-harming for a member of that group to abuse the group. Back on the soccer field, in the intervals between kicking each other or rocketing snot from a nostril, you see (but don’t hear) footballers  effing and blinding each other  with real feeling.  Why isn't that kind of abuse  the subject of equally fierce fines and bans?

Because ours is an era of selective moral outrage.  You can denounce homophobia and expect applause but should you denounce abortion you'd better be ready for castigation. Likewise in the world of football, a great range of words and actions are reprehensible,  but it's those that are identified as racist or sexist which receive immediate denunciation.

What’s that – you say I forgot to add religious abuse in my reprehensible list? Oh come on – sure everyone knows that’s only a bit of banter and fun. Ask Neil Lennon.


  1. I agree with the sentiment, that the ban imposed is far too long.

    There are problems - firstly, in comparing the actions of the SFA's disgraceful handling of the Neil Lennon saga with the English FA's handling of this. They are two completely separate bodies, with completely different agendas and (ultimately) media pressures.


    "You can denounce homophobia and expect applause but should you denounce abortion you'd better be ready for castigation."

    Castigation where? In Ireland? Are you joking? I would expect an avidly (and openly) pro-choice elected representative (of which there are none in NI since Dawn Purvis' election failure) to receive the castigation.

  2. The word in question was actually "negrito" (not 'negro'). It is a common word in that region, usually used towards friend and never as an insult

  3. "Selective moral outrage" the darling of the BBC. Myra Hindly denounced as the most evil person in the world for her role in the brutal slaying of five children and on the same broadcast RAF pilots just back from bombing scores of kids are heroes.

  4. As a fan of Man Utd, I think the whole ban and fine is wrong. It should have been sorted out at Anfield in the manager's office. What makes this really wrong is that this is a large ban for non-sporting activity, Suarez was trying to upset Evra's game to gain an advantage. However, how often have we seen physical attacks used in the same way and yet the longest ban is rarely longer than 3 matches. Hurt feelings are , therefore , more important than career threatening assaults. (Aaron Ramsey, Eduardoinjuries in recent years for example)

  5. Jude
    On the point about selective moral outrage, I don't think your comparison is apt.
    Virtually everyone agrees that homophobia (fear of, or prejudice against homosexuals) is bad. Even the DUP , whilst calling it a sin, would pay lip service to condemning any prejudice.
    Abortion on the other hand is much more morally ambiguous and difficult, where reasonable people can have opposite views on the issue. Therefore you would indeed expect castigation.
    In short, denouncing homophobia is like denouncing bullying. Denouncing abortion is not.

  6. Evra should be charged for his bout of racism.. oh sorry I forgot the FA are a biased and arrogant organisation.

  7. This from my No. 3 son, who lived for two years in Central America:

    "negro" isn't seen as pejorative in Spanish, let alone "negrito" ("little blackie"). It's not seen as racist to draw attention to a person's race. People throw it into everyday conversation like it doesn't matter. Example that sticks in my mind is of a supermarket manager turning to Sybil and saying "How can I help you, little white girl?." Another example would be a very nice, smart, friendly Dominican woman I did the citizenship stuff with saying that she was interviewed by a "little Chinawoman."