With John Terry's apology and decision not to appeal the FA's decision to go against the not guilty ruling of a criminal court and punish him for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand last season, it appeared the matter was finally drawing to a close. Anton's brother Rio, himself fined for a racial taunt against Ashley Cole, had different ideas though, as he refused to wear the Kick It Out T-shirt that all players wore before Manchester United's 4-2 win against Stoke despite manager Alex Ferguson's assertion that "everyone should be united" in wearing them at his Friday press conference.
Ferguson was responding to Reading striker Jason Roberts' declaration that he would not wear the shirt before his side's match against Liverpool because he felt the Kick It Out organization's response to the Terry and Luis Suarez incidents weren't "strong enough." Ferguson disagreed with Roberts' position, though, saying, "He really should be supporting all the other players who are doing it" on Friday.
Following the match against Stoke, Ferguson expressed his disappointment about Ferdinand's quiet choice to defy his wishes. From the Guardian:
Speaking to United's in-house TV channel, MUTV, after the 4-2 victory at Old Trafford Ferguson said: "I am disappointed. I said [on Friday] that the players would be wearing [the T-shirts] in support of the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association] and that every player should adhere to it. And he goes and lets us down. We will deal with it, don't worry."
Ferguson added: "I spoke to the press about it. It is embarrassing for me."
By not explaining his decision to his manager, let alone anyone else, before breaking from the rest of his team in not wearing the shirt, Ferdinand's act comes off as petulant and it seems Ferguson is taking it more as a personal affront than a noble stand against a toothless campaign. Reading manager Brian McDermott, meanwhile, fully supported Roberts' protest because Roberts spoke to him first instead of making it a last-minute surprise. "I support him 100 percent," McDermott said. "He had his reasons. Jason had his view and it was a very strong view. We spoke on Friday and I totally respect his view."
But while Roberts and Ferdinand feel the need to protest Kick It Out, former England goalkeeper David James has said that football's anti-racism groups like Kick It Out are doing too much in order to "keep themselves in existence."
Yet in the end, this is still just a T-shirt. Ferdinand and Roberts' decision not to wear it is going to have the same non-effect on the fight against racism in football as wearing the T-shirts have had for years now. Though the official responses to racial incidents often isn't ideal, the problem was never going to perfectly eradicated overnight just as it hasn't been in the larger scope of society. But, for the moment, Alex Ferguson is probably more concerned with how one of his players actually dared to go against him without so much as an explanation.