Si Steers

Columnist

The media portrait of Luis Suarez

Si Steers takes a look at the British media’s handling of the Luis Suarez racism case.

So despite apologising for a ‘crime’ that he was charged for without out any proof, and serving out an eight match ban as punishment, it looks as though Luis Suarez will forever be tarnished by a disputed incident that would have been laughed out of court.

The relentless booing of Suarez during the Olympics has been an absolute disgrace; it is a stain on this country. The hatred towards Suarez has been driven by a hostile media that have been desperate to hang Suarez out to dry – it is easier to point the finger at a South American as being racist than it is one of your own.

Sections of the media believe they act as the moral compass for this country; that they have the right to ‘speak for the people’. The irony of the media acting as the moral compass is that as Leveson has exposed beyond any question – that integrity and morals in journalism do not exist.

I find it highly ironic that the Daily Mail can stand on its perch and point towards a foreign footballer as racist. I use the Mail as an example as Martin Samuel seems to take a different view on the issue of racism dependant on where the accused is from.

Cultural differences

The simple fact of the matter is this. On the streets of Uruguay (or most South American countries) the phrase “Por que Negro” is a common and accepted form of communication. In fact, there was an accusation against Lionel Messi recently for using the term Negro to address a team mate – but of course, those kind of things tend to slip under the media radar as it raises uncomfortable questions about our tolerance of other cultures.

On the streets of England if you were to address somebody as a “F**king Black C**t” you can assume that you will be in trouble – even in the context of ‘repeating it back’ – although you would assume that most people would hesitate before saying it.

Although some in the media believe that calling somebody an “F**king Black C**t” in English isn’t necessarily racist, whilst saying “Por que Negro” in Spanish qualifies you as a signed up member of the KKK.

The Suarez case should raise some uncomfortable questions in the media and this country in general. The witch hunt has been so hostile – why is that? I think one of the reasons is that Liverpool decided to stand behind Suarez and failed to bow down to the demands of the media – as is the ‘Liverpool Way’. Rather than accept that Suarez was guilty – the club backed the player and his case.

The Suarez case boiled down to ‘cultural differences’. That was quickly dismissed by both the media and the FA in a zero tolerance approach to language deemed ‘racial’ in this country. But it actually goes far deeper than that. The Suarez case is a classic example of the intolerance in this country to other cultures.

We like to think we are a multicultural and tolerant country, but are we really? Are we really deep down a staunchly conservative country – where foreign people are demonised if they don’t adapt to life in Britain? The fact that both the FA and media failed to listen – and that is the key word – on any level to Suarez case that in his culture attitudes to race are different – suggests to me the answer is possibly yes – at least in the ‘establishment’.

I am hesitant to use the word xenophobic as it is unfair to brand all journalists as the same; there are some very good sports journalists – some of whom do have valid observations about the Suarez case. Whilst I disagree for example with Martin Lipton on his view of the case – I do respect he has remained consistent in his view over the Terry case, and he has condemned the booing of Suarez – unlike a colleague who works at the same newspaper: the same colleague that condemned and branded the Anfield crowd as ‘racist’ for booing Patrice Evra.

Trial by media

Spot the difference: How The Guardian reported the Terry & Suarez cases – despite identical charges being handed to them by the FA.

It is a fair observation that the media had drawn its conclusions on the Suarez case before it went to ‘trial’ (if you can call it that). Suarez admission that he had used the word ‘Negro’ in a conversational exchange with Evra was all of the evidence that the media needed – regardless of any context.

The media smelt blood with Suarez – it was a welcome distraction from the Leveson enquiry and they wanted a carcass – the FA duly obliged. The likes of the Guardian and Mirror – who should both know better – led with headlines that said Suarez was either a racist / had been charged with racist language. Compare both headlines to the reporting of the Terry case where ‘insulting language’ seems to be the tone.

The great irony of the media witch hunt against Suarez is that it has left the FA with no option but to now charge John Terry under the same rules. Whilst Liverpool made errors during the process – it was the media that was leading the conversation throughout.

Liverpool was left in a position where they were reacting to a continual barrage of criticism. I think the naivety of both Suarez and Liverpool was exposed to maximum gain by the media – from Suarez initial admission that he had used the word ‘Negro’ despite zero evidence – to Liverpool’s belief that the FA would understand and accept that cultural nuances was a credible defence.

The fact is that Suarez was tried and found guilty before the case was even heard.

Summary

In my view, perhaps the difference in reporting of the Suarez / Terry cases is more to do with a media desperate to paint a picture that racism is something that happens outside of these shores. By condemning Terry, they would be condemning England. It is far easier to point the finger at a Uruguayan and make excuses for one of your own. That doesn’t just go for the media – it is relevant to each and every single person that boos Suarez because they believe what they have read in the paper.

That said, football is a game of passion and emotion, and Suarez is a footballer that does divide opinion. His game does court reaction at times – and he will never be a popular player with opposition fans. The very best players in the world all have that ‘edge’ – and they feed off the hatred. I think Suarez is one of those players.

But when all is said and done, Suarez is a relatively young footballer, and off the pitch a devote family man. I am sure he can take the hate, it comes with the job.

But both the media and supporters have to move on from the Evra incident – because this targeting of Suarez both in print, TV and in football stadiums does not do this country any favours. The likes of Ollie Holt may pat themselves on the back as being ‘tough on racism’ – where in fact, all it is doing is damaging the real fight against racism and reinforcing the perception to the rest of the world that we don’t like foreigners in Britain.

If the media want to take the moral high ground on racism – they have to be brave enough to look inwards and condemn those guilty in this country before trying to position the blame on cultures they know nothing about.

I hope that Suarez is strong enough to ignore the hatred – and that he uses it to become a better footballer. But the fact that he has been branded a racist by a kangaroo court against the backdrop of no evidence is an absolute travesty. And what makes it worse is that the media and football fans in this country continue to use it as a weapon against him.

The next time a South American player thinks about coming to England – I am sure that the treatment Suarez has received may make them think again.

Share with your friends









Submit
The following two tabs change content below.
Professional communicator and fanatical Liverpool fan. I write for This is Anfield, Paul Tomkins (The Tomkins Times) and Liverpool FC.
  • sav

    Yes got to agree a very good article , I wonder if Terry or indeed Ferdinand will get the same abuse Suarez has had to put up with from the media and the fans of opposing clubs ………somehow I very much doubt it

  • Rich

    Great article, I am English and I am ashamed when I see and hear my fellow countrymen booing Suarez and his national anthem, he was not taken to court as Terry was because there was no evidence against him apart from Evra’s accusation yet he was found guilty by the F.A. because they thought he was probably guilty, unbelievable.

  • Tom

    This is a pretty fair assessment. I don’t know if he deserved an 8 game suspension. But he didn’t help win over any fans when he snubbed Evra’s handshake.

    • brrao

      Oh yes, very fair assessment. I stop reading his bio at ‘I have been a Liverpool fan since..’

      • Uruguayo

        so what?? get a girlfriend, twerp…

    • deedontdoodatderdoodee

      did anybody else in the world realise at all that it should have been the munichs that should have walked down the line shaking our lads hands? no! it was their home game and that is the correct etiquet! it just proves that it was all a setup…. and when that shytehawk nevra deliberately and unnecessarily paused to raise his hand, which suarez did offer, suarez moved on thinking he was the one snubbed…… no that scum evra REALLY wanted to rub it in! bravo suarez for rubbing his dirty nose in it…… turned it right back on him
      but of course our impartial media could not let it go and a witch hunt for the best footballer in the land started in real earnest
      fergusson et al are insanely jealous that we have such a footballer and will do anything to rid him from these shores……. but the fact is they would love to have him themselves

  • uru

    Great article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/GOB1988 Gerald OBrien

    It’s funny how much irony is in the title “The Guardian” in this context. Though to be fair, there was a lot of people wanting to believe “Suarez is guilty” or “Terry to be innocent” going on as well so the public are also to blame in my opinion.

    YNWA Suarez

  • Arley

    I am a Liverpool fan myself. Things are not mutually exclusive. How the British press dealt with Terry needs to be discussed? Yes. Does the press being unfair in its coverage alter whether a comment was racist or not? No.
    And please, don’t be childish by trying to look at a word in its dictionary sense. When words deal with ideas, context must be taken into account. So the same word said with anger and spite means something completely different than when its said from a friend to a friend. It is beyond foolish to try to point out what the word entails, especially racially related words.
    BOO SUAREZ
    BOO TERRY
    BOO blind fans and excuses, you embarrass yourself by using cultural differences as a ridiculous subterfuge.

  • Guest

    It’s a very messy case. Mix in sensationalist journalism plus tribalism and you’ve got a huge amount of people stubbornly picking sides without really taking the time and looking at the big picture (ie. Suarez was only convicted on grounds of probability/Evra-FA doesn’t believe he is racist). The losers are not only Suarez but most English people who may now be perceived as a xenophobic nation by outside nations.

  • Benus8

    Good piece Si, well written, thats picked me up

  • Hays

    Well said, Si Steers. Well said indeed. Message for braao: go back to suckling at the media’s tit and leave Gaby alone.

  • Liverpoolfan220257093844

    an absolute true article it shows the hidden message that the media had hidden from us and adjusted to make Suarez look in the wrong.

  • Doggie

    What changed my mind about the Suarez case was the moment he pinched Evra – that is clearly a racially movitated slur referring to the colour of his skin, so I do believe he was rightly punished.

    However, Evra should also have been punished for his disgusting verbal abuse.

    But considering the FA panel was made up of Ferguson’s buddies this was never going to happen.

  • newk

    As I’ve said before, a documentary needs to be made to show the British public how much they’ve been misled by the media and those pulling the strings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Don-Wynne/1018028945 Don Wynne

    Like Si, I often comment, and have posted blogs on the ‘Kop’ I am glad he has chosen this time to re state what a lot of people have been saying, even supporters of Suarez often make the mistake of linking him with the media ‘headlines’ thus reinforcing his racist credentials in the psyche of the public. Many of his detractors feel justified in their condemnation of him by basing it on this ‘received wisdom, the media needs to be more accountable for its actions, we as adults need to use judgement before reacting to headlines and sound bites.

  • Karan

    One of the best articles I’ve read regarding the Suarez issue

  • Butragenio

    In my opinion the Suarez incident was blown out of proportion. Unfortunately our club handled it the wrong way too. We kept on throwing gas on the fire instead of letting it burn out. Hopefully we learn out of it. I hope that the club can offer proper protection to our most valuable asset. Without Suarez next season we are struggling to make tenth.

  • http://st1jere.blogspot.com Sam Wanjere

    Something oft forgotten in this sad storm in a teacup is a French speaker (Evra) had his word taken over a native Spanish speaker (Suarez), despite none of the accuser’s mates supporting him, including a Spanish goalie in de Gea. The FA wins Best Actor Oscar, with the media sweeping the Supporting Actor award.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisd5969 Christopher Dunn

    LUIS SUAREZ YNWA LEGEND ALREADY AND ONLY GONNA GET BETTER

  • http://twitter.com/MrSwitchers Switchers

    Always the victim eh? Blame the press? Blame Sir Alex? Blame anyone accept the guilty cheat Suarez. Modded within 5 minutes im guessing, since truth isnt your forte.

    • deedontdoodatderdoodee

      switchers, you cant handle the truth!!!
      it was a witch hunt from the beginning and even the most inbred of mancs should spot it from a mile!
      when baconface bleats the press are there pen in one hand and percy in the other! “dont ever let the truth get in the way of a good story” has always been the mantra of the british press……… they actually could not stand our own national team doing well!…. and they cant stand my liverpool doing well either!
      they would rather listen to the slurred rantings of a half man half turnip with a “whisky slushy” brain constantly spewing bile usually directed at liverpool football club
      any psychoanalyst will tell you that he has classic little man syndrome borne about about extreme jealousy of a more successful neighbour or work colleague, has a very small penis, likes to watch rather than participate and hangs around mens changing rooms for a (disproportionately) long time “soaking” up the atmosphere!
      ah, i feel better now!

  • rrr

    Ha ha ha. What a load of nonsense.

    For a start, Suarez has NEVER apologised for the language he used. He only apologised for not shaking Evra’s hand at the later match.
    For another, no matter what the semantics of the cultural differences in the use of language, you can be sure as eggs is eggs that whatever Suarez said to Evra was in no way meant in a friendly or affectionate way and to continue to claim it was is an insult to the intelligence of yourself and anyone who reads your drivel.
    As for the “no evidence” line, how about the evidence that Suarez himself admitted to using the words he used. Is that not evidence in and of itself?

    I will agree with you on two points however, booing him during the Olympics is out of order. It is a totally different competition supposedly held with with different ideals and what happened in the past should be left there. That said, so long as people connected, however loosely, with Liverpool football club keep banging on about it, it is not going to go away.
    Secondly, the book should also be thrown at John Terry. There may not be enough evidence to put it “beyond reasonable doubt” but it’s clear to anyone who wasn’t born within the last fortnight that Terry’s defence is utter hogwash and he should receive the same 9 game ban.

  • rrr

    For a start, Suarez has NEVER apologised for the language he used. He
    only apologised for not shaking Evra’s hand at the later match.

    For another, no matter what the semantics of the cultural differences in
    the use of language, you can be sure as eggs is eggs that whatever
    Suarez said to Evra was in no way meant in a friendly or affectionate
    way and to continue to claim it was is an insult to the intelligence of
    yourself and anyone who reads your drivel.

    As for the “no evidence” line, how about the evidence that Suarez
    himself admitted to using the words he used. Is that not evidence in and
    of itself?

    I will agree with you on two points however, booing him during the
    Olympics is out of order. It is a totally different competition
    supposedly held with with different ideals and what happened in the past
    should be left there. That said, so long as people connected, however
    loosely, with Liverpool football club keep banging on about it, it is
    not going to go away.

    Secondly, the book should also be thrown at John Terry. There may not be
    enough evidence to put it “beyond reasonable doubt” but it’s clear to
    anyone who wasn’t born within the last fortnight that Terry’s defence is
    utter hogwash and he should receive the same 9 game ban.