John Terry Racism Trial: Regardless of Verdict, the Damage Is Already Done

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterJuly 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 09:  Chelsea FC football player John Terry arrives at Westminster Magistrates court to stand trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, on July 9, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)
Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

The accusations will fly, the asterisks will flow and the apologists will flock from the woodwork to defend both sides. Over the next five days, the worlds of football and jurisprudence will collide in the case of the John Terry racism trial. And no matter which way the verdict goes when it's all over, nobody will win.

When it's all over, players will still talk trash, racism will still blight football and—love him or hate him—John Terry will still be John Terry.

The John Terry we all know is no stranger to controversy, as a detailed Daily Mirror run-down suggests. From the unsavory 9/11 partying to the alleged affairs to the current charges of racism, Terry's rap sheet runs long and cuts deep.

In his wake, Terry has left a string of casualties, from his own captaincy to Fabio Capello's tenure as England manager. Not that Capello's departure was Terry's fault. Capello was merely the latest authority figure to defend Terry.

Terry is controversial. His fans love him. Most everyone else loathes him. This trial won't change any of that, and it won't solve football's racism problem.

Terry, 31, is on trial for an "aggravated public order offence" (Crown Prosecution Service). He is accused of using racist language towards Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand during a match at QPR's Loftus Road last October. His trial is expected to last five days.

Following along with the case has already proven difficult for even the jaded and desensitized.

From The Guardian:

[Prosecutor Duncan] Penny said: "The crown alleges that the defendant, most probably in response to physical gestures being made by Mr Ferdinand, which the defendant understood to refer to the well-publicised allegation of an extramarital affair with a team-mate's wife, shouted at Mr Ferdinand."

From the Daily Telegraph:

"Terry, 31, is accused of calling Ferdinand a “f****** black c***” in front of a television audience of 2 million people."

And finally, from The Independent:

Ferdinand said: "He called me a c*** and I called him a c*** back and he gave me a gesture as if to say my breath smelled.

"I said to him, 'How can you call me a c***? You shagged your team-mate's missus, you're a c***'."

Terry's defense claims that he didn't call Ferdinand those words. Instead, they argue that he was asking Ferdinand if Ferdinand thought Terry had called him those words.

It's an absurd defense that borders on nonsensical, and if Terry beats the charge, he should buy his lawyer a house. But even if he's found guilty, it's no matter. According to the BBC, the greatest punishment Terry can receive is a fine of £2,500.

If that's true, why bother? Why not just literally slap Terry on the wrist, rap his knuckles with a ruler and send him to bed without dessert?

In practice, losing the England captaincy has served as Terry's harshest punishment. Even so, he started all four of England's matches at Euro 2012 while Ferdinand's brother, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, sat at home.

For a professional footballer who earns millions per year, calling a £2,500 fine a punishment is like calling a can of Spam gourmet cuisine. And starting four matches at a major tournament is only slightly less prestigious than serving as captain.

Whether he's found guilty or not, then, Terry will feel little more than the embarrassment of a bit of public mudslinging. Good thing he has so much experience in the field.

Ferdinand, meanwhile, won't win even if Terry is found guilty. The run-up to the case must have been an ordeal, and under cross-examination, Ferdinand himself has hardly come off favorably.

And even if Terry is found guilty, a paltry fine—no matter how public the trial is—won't stop racists from being racists.

Confronting racism is commendable, and by doing so in such a high-profile way, the British CPS has gone perhaps as far as any of football's many governing bodies.

But after such an ugly trial, hardly anything will have changed.


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