The racism case against Luis Suarez was tried and decided, in secret, by an independent regulatory commission of the FA tasked with weighing the evidence and testimony of the parties. The panel found the Liverpool star guilty of violating its rules, but has yet to publish its report on the case. Further delay in releasing its findings prevents the full resolution of the case.
Never before has the FA dealt with a case involving cultural nuances and one man’s word against another’s. The closest case it can use as a precedent is that of former Reading defender John Mackie. In 2003, he was banned eight games after he admitted to racially abusing Sheffield United’s Carl Asaba when the two met in a 2002 game. Mackie admitted guilt and received the eight-game ban. It was reduced to three, with the other five suspended, after he appealed the decision.
Mackie’s case was different from the Suarez situation because Mackie used an English-language racial slur, the “N-word.” It has been widely reported (but not confirmed) that Suarez used a Spanish word, “negrito,” which the Uruguayan claims is no insult in his country. It can often be used as a neutral or affectionate term in a country where some believe the color lines are less defined than they are in Western Europe and the United States. He claims he meant no malicious intent when he allegedly said the word to Patrice Evra. It was reported that Suarez admitted to using the word “negrito” to the commission, but tried to explain how he meant no harm by it.
The contradiction calls into question the severity of the punishment the commission leveled against Suarez. How, in a clear case like Mackie’s, can the FA ban a player for eight games, and give the same punishment to a more nuanced case? The FA must publish the evidence to answer this question.
Evra cannot duck responsibility for his role in the entire affair. He reportedly started the altercation with a Spanish-language epithet of his own, “sudaco.” It’s a derogatory phrase Europeans use to refer to someone from South America. This phrase is a clear violation of FA rule E3(1), which prohibits abusive words. Evra’s words also include an “aggravating factor” of the reference to Suarez’s nationality.
The next section of the rule states that the aggravating factor warrants “a sanction that is double that which the Regulatory Commission would have applied had the aggravating factor not been present.” According to the Liverpool statement, Evra admitted making the abusive remarks to Suarez in Spanish, but the Liverpool striker did not hear the insult.
The FA handed Suarez a lengthy ban for violating E3(1), which is the same rule Evra admitted to breaking and includes an aggravating factor contained in E3(2). How does the FA plan to punish Evra for his admitted violation of its rules? Will Evra receive any punishment at all?
The commission took six days to hear the case and deliver a verdict against Suarez. Certainly, the FA should not take as long to submit a written report on its decision. Suarez and Liverpool have 14 days from the time they receive the report to decide on a next course of action. Until that happens, the world can only wait and speculate as to who said what to whom, and when it was said.
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