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With John Terry's not guilty verdict, has the court sent out the wrong message?

18th July 2012

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The not guilty verdict in the recent John Terry racism case has resulted in the growing concern of the tolerance given to both those using racism ‘as a joke’ and to Mr Terry himself, who is bafflingly still in the public eye despite mounting negative press.

Many are worried that the court has sent out the wrong message with regards to the leniency given to those accused of racism. However it also once again highlights the special treatment of footballers, with the magistrate, according to the Sun, concluding that "Terry has given effectively the same account throughout. In so far as there are discrepancies in his account, they are understandable and natural."

If the accused was anyone else any inconsistencies would lead to serious doubt as to the validity of their argument, but it seems that footballers can get away with having basically the same story (ish) throughout their testament.

One of the main comments that stood out for me in this casewas a quote in Sun saying that Terry had presented substantial evidence that he was not a racist.

As someone that has grown up in a relatively multi-cultural social circle this made me question, what was the nature of that evidence? I distinctly remember an incident when I was 14, with one of my friends accusing another girl of being racist, the response given (which in fact I have heard many times since) was, "I can’t be a racist - I’ve got loads of black friends."

Even though Terry’s charge is definitely not something to be tolerated in a modern day society, it is slightly amusing to think of him wheeling out every single person he could think of, that he met once, of any ethnic origin to prove that he couldn’t possibly be a racist if he had talked to someone that wasn’t white. The very fact that Terry has any solid evidence to disprove his racism is in itself a little strange. I feel that with most people it would be hard to conclusively prove they were not a racist, but then most people don’t stand accused of publicly having flaunted their supposed racist views.

It is irrefutable that no-one should be spoken to in the supposed way that Terry did to his fellow team mate Anton Ferdinand, however this case developed further than a focus on whether Terry was to be declared an official racist or not. In fact it opened a can of worms in terms of the format and sentencing in a racism charge when aspects such as, the fact that he may have been joking and whether he was repeating the phrase, are involved. Or perhaps this just shows that if you make your defence confusing enough nothing can be definitively proved, a tactic I’m sure many people have used in the past on teachers or lecturers.

Therefore maybe John Terry once again putting his foot in it has been a positive thing in highlighting a wider issue about the seriousness of saying anything derogatory about an ethnic origin. Although regarding Terry himself I refer again to the magistrates curious closing comment about his ‘reputation being at stake’ - now there’s a man who clearly doesn’t read the papers. Possibly in this case it can simply be put down to lads being lads and footballers being a seemingly different species to the rest of us. However I wonder how far that argument stretches in the tolerance of such vile racist comments?

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