Long ago, in a league far away, John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand. At a time when England’s FA was beginning to crack down on racism in the sport, John Terry became the first footballer to go on trial for directing racial slurs at an opponent during a game. The charges were not brought forward by Anton Ferdinand, but by a QPR fan.
Sadly, like many incidents of racism and sexual violence then and still today, the case traumatized the victim much more than the perpetrator. The BBC production Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me gives Ferdinand a chance to tell his story and how he and his family were so adversely affected. Anton is the brother of Rio Ferdinand, but it appears Rio may have avoided getting involved in the controversy. Anton and the rest of his family were attacked in various ways in person and on social media, his career and mental health declined, and his mother died of cancer.
Because the case was at the forefront of societal change, no organization knew how to help, support, or adequately advise Ferdinand or his family. As a result, the man suffers regrets about what he could have done better. This film is his chance to tell the next generations racism is wrong, support the players, and teach them to be proud, speak out, and put an end to the victimization.
The racial incident during QPR vs Chelsea
Here is the opening statement in the judgment of Regina vs John Terry by deciding magistrate Howard Riddle:
The Crown alleges that the offence occurred towards the end of a Premier League football match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea on the 23rd October 2011. The match was televised live and the recordings form a central part of the evidence. …
There was an initial dispute between the defendant, John Terry (Chelsea) and Anton Ferdinand (QPR), inside the QPR penalty box. Shortly afterwards Mr Terry returned to the Chelsea half of the pitch and turned to face the opposition. At that stage Mr Ferdinand made what was described as a fist pumping gesture towards the defendant, accompanied by abuse.
The Crown say that Mr Terry responded by aiming the words “f**k off, f**k off, yeah, yeah and you f**king black c*nt, f**king kn**head”, and possibly one or more other words, at Mr Ferdinand.
The defendant does not deny that he used the words, “f**k off, f**k off”, “f**king black c*nt” or “f**king kn**head”. His case is that his words were not uttered by way of abuse or insult nor were they intended to be abusive or insulting.Magistrate Howard Riddle
Despite the above rather horrid description of racial abuse, the magistrate accepted John Terry’s side of the story, ruled it as a misunderstanding, and absolved him of any crime. The FA, however, then pushed ahead with its own proceeding and effectively removed Terry from the England team.
In the opinion of this referee, in football terms, what Terry did was a red card worthy of a multi-game suspension. Zero tolerance is the only way you can fight racism. That Terry did not accept accountability while under trial undoubtedly confirmed his unsuitability to represent England.
That being said, it’s unfortunate the incident went to an overblown trial and that the FA’s correct decisions failed to halt the backlash against Ferdinand.
Notes about John Terry
- John Terry has never spoken to nor apologized to Anton Ferdinand since that game.
- John Terry’s wikipedia page has a nice summary of his legal issues and improprieties.
- What it means to “go full John Terry” by falsely taking credit for successes.
I cannot think of any other football film as heartfelt as this. Anton Ferdinand’s pain is palpable, and his story reminds the FA and all of us that we need to do better. The more people know his story, the better for all of us, so please share this film with others.
8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8