"You f**king black ****."
From the moment the damning YouTube footage from Loftus Road appeared, a nation has debated—ad nauseum—whether Terry is a racist.
A court found him not guilty of racist abuse. But the Football Association, who have twice promoted Terry to captain and thus figurehead elect of their most prized asset—the England national team—came to the opposite conclusion.
Terry was found guilty of using racist language towards Anton Ferdinand and has been banned for four matches and fined £220,000. A full report is to follow, and with it will come another round of public damning for the 31-year-old.
The FA's biggest task is justifying the weight of the punishment, which—on numbers alone—equates to a hamstring injury and just over a week's wages for the Chelsea defender.
Eric Cantona got a 9-month ban for attacking a racist, but John Terry gets just 4 games for being a racist. Discuss.— Match of the Dave (@MatchOfTheDave_) September 27, 2012
12 games!!! By the FA's perverse reckoning, I'd of got less of a ban for racially abusing the Man City players than tickling them as I did.— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) September 27, 2012
The financial element is irrelevant when it comes to footballers. Do we really think Terry will find the weight of a £220,000 fine heavier than Luis Suarez did his fine of £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra?
Of course he won't. A check will be signed and that will be that. Terry's agent will do the rest.
The ban is what matters. Suarez got eight games, so we only assume Terry's crime is—somehow—deemed half as serious.
The Press Association are suggesting it's because Suarez was found to have used the word "negro" several times, whereas Terry stands accused of just the one despicable utterance towards Ferdinand.
Could there be an element of leniency in light of Terry's steadfast defense—that he was responding to Ferdinand's accusation and returning those three words to do so?
In a matter of days we'll know the answer. But whatever the FA report says, it won't change the fact that Terry's legacy has been forever tarnished.
"J.T. Captain. Leader. Legend. Racist," read Friday's headline in The Independent.
We won't forget Terry's contribution as Chelsea's comic-book hero and arguably the best English central defender of his generation. But no discussion of his career will be complete without a mention of events in October 2011.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright scored well over 200 goals in his career. He won a Premier League title and two FA Cup finals, but his infamous clash with Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel remains among fans' favorite topics when they meet him.
"People still come up to me and say: ‘How is your mate Peter Schmeichel?’" wrote Wright in his column for The Sun on Friday. "...People remember the negative things. And people will always remember what John Terry said to Anton Ferdinand."
Even if he appeals and wins, Terry's name will forever be linked with the word, "racist."
For that he has only himself to blame. Because whatever Terry's motivation for using those three words, it is beyond dispute that he should not have said them—just as Suarez shouldn't have said "negro" at Anfield.
To keep fighting the racism charge is to miss the point. As Martin Samuel wrote in the Daily Mail, Terry can learn from Suarez's ill-advised approach in the aftermath of his FA judgement.
The public have made up their mind. It's time for John Terry to apologize and the world to move on.