Liverpool are looking into claims Demba Ba was racially abused during Chelsea's 2-0 win at Anfield.
A Reds fan reported one of his fellow supporters after the apparent slur was made "high in the stands," according to Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail. Liverpool have confirmed they are "investigating the matter" after Twitter user @PhantomGoal made a formal complaint to anti-racism body Kick It Out on Sunday night.
The club will now use CCTV footage and interview match stewards around the relevant seat, as reported by Paul Brown of the Daily Star. It is thought Ba didn't hear the remarks, but that the offending supporter "has also been accused of racially abusing Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling," which is also under examination.
Unfortunately, @PhantomGoal's brave decision to report the alleged incident has seen plenty of hate hurled his way on social media. He tweeted that some people had tried to convince him not to speak up on Tuesday:
Told that I shouldn't have said anything publicly as it'll hurt the club's PR, as if LFC's image is more important than tackling racism— Si (@PhantomGoal) April 29, 2014
The claims come after a prominent week for racism in football. Barcelona full-back Dani Alves' decision to pick up, eat and chuck away a banana thrown at him during Sunday's tie with Villarreal has gone viral, once again signalling FIFA need to up their punishment for racism.
Twitter also played a prominent role in this incident, as a "#weareallmonkeys" tag (#somostodosmacacos in Portuguese) has yielded plenty of support from the footballing community and beyond, noted by Bleacher Report UK:
Further afield, the NBA play-offs were recently rocked when Donald Sterling—the LA Clippers' owner—was recorded "asking a woman not to associate in public with black people nor bring them to games," per BBC News.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Sterling is now banned from the organisation for life, will need to sell his interest in the team and has received a maximum fine of $2.5 million. John Amaechi, the first NBA player to publicly come out as gay in 2007, believes FIFA must take note:
Ba's performance epitomised a Chelsea side that was drilled to frustrate Liverpool throughout their Merseyside clash. He dominated in the air, showed great energy when chasing down lofted balls and took advantage of Steven Gerrard's slip to give his side the initiative in a must-win encounter.
Unfortunately for the opening goalscorer, this isn't the first time he's been caught up in a racism story. As noted by Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph (subscription required), Ba was reportedly on the receiving end of face-to-face abuse during West Ham's end-of-season dinner in 2011, where a fan was said to have confronted him after asking for an autograph.
In January 2013, a 39-year-old from Gateshead was arrested for allegedly posting racist remarks about Ba on Facebook, per ESPN FC.
While it is perhaps a silver lining the Chelsea striker wasn't forced into listening to his potential abuser at Anfield, the incident cannot pass unpunished if proven to be true. Liverpool will be expected to discipline the fan—most likely through a ban from the stadium and away games—if enough evidence points toward the supporter being guilty.
Despite being fierce rivals on the pitch, both Chelsea and Liverpool will undoubtedly unite to ensure an appropriate response is issued.