It is rare for a football club's statement to cause a stir. Such is the platitudinous banality of these releases that it is uncommon for them to inspire any sort of sensation. When the banal platitudes are replaced by ill-thought nonsense coagulated into a barely coherent defence of a newly banned player, however, a club statement becomes instantly notorious. That is what has happened to this bizarre publication, issued by Liverpool FC in response to Luis Suarez being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Leaving aside the very interesting question of who wrote this piece (evocative as it is of the work of Ricky Gervais, Ron Atkinson and Surreal Football) and how they arrived at such a startlingly ignorant and infantile world view in favour of some housekeeping, it is necessary first to point out that Suarez has not been convicted of being a racist (that would be impossible, I may be a horrible racist - I'm not - but as long as I keep schtum about it you'll never know) but of racially abusing someone. These are linked, but not identical. If this seems like an obvious clarification then I apologise, but it seems in the light of the storm that has already gathered around the club's release to be a necessary one. Still in the housekeeping spirit, I should make it clear that I am not ‘anti-Liverpool' (such a designation, as the below will hopefully explain, is senseless in any case): see this as evidence.
And with that, on to the outrageous behaviour of Liverpool FC and a huge number of their fans (manifested in the ‘support' for the player issued by the Empire of the Kop fanzine and on the Anfield Asylum message board).
Writing last month on this subject, Andi Thomas predicted that,
if -- IF -- he is found guilty then those fans will have to sit in the Kop, week on week, applauding their team and hoping for general success, yet knowing that the lad up front's a bigot. Many (not all, but enough) fans will seek to circumvent this dissonance completely by either ignoring it - he's a Liverpool player so I'll support him no matter what - sublimating it - yes, he was a prick, but he's done his time - or enthusiastically joining him - nice one, Luis, you told that Manc c---.
That (with the exception of the second, which will happen in time) is exactly what has happened, which, in itself is depressing. Worse, though, is the fact that option C has so far predominated. You can take my word for it, or you can click on one of the links above, or you can read between the lines of the club's official statement, but the truth is that Liverpool and (by and large) their fans have disgraced themselves with their feeble minded response to Suarez's punishment.
This disgrace takes a few different forms.
First, is the staggering vehemence with which Patrice Evra, the (official) victim of Suarez's abuse has been treated. This is, frankly, inexcusably racist. To accuse Evra of fabrication is, at this stage, to deny him the freedom from abuse that the law by which Suarez has been punished and therefore to offer an implicit defence of racism. This is entirely unacceptable, and needs to be called as such.
Second, is the inherent assumption (and this was the thrust of Andi's excellent piece) that Suarez as a Liverpool player could not be racist and that it is an affront to the club to suggest otherwise. He could and it is not. Those fans that blindly march in ‘defence' of Suarez (led, astonishingly, by a memorandum FROM THE CLUB) are idiots. If you think otherwise then you are an idiot.
Third (and connected) is the issue that I discussed last week in relation to Manchester City's feed. One man does not, cannot, act for, speak for, or tweet for an entire football club. Instead of acting like he does (and Liverpool, with their vacant sounding 'Never Walk Alone' rhetoric, seem to be peculiarly vulnerable to this type of ludicrous and in this case damaging tribe mentality), fans NEED to stand up: not in my name is this man's racist abuse disbursed. That they haven't, that the club (spectacularly) hasn't is horrible.
It is also stupid. It palpably doesn't matter that Suarez plays for Liverpool. It doesn't matter that he is friends with black people. It doesn't matter that his grandfather was black. Suarez racially abused an opponent. That is unacceptable. And he deserves his ban.
Liverpool's announcement happened with astonishing serendipity to be released during the Blackburn vs. Bolton Wanderers match throughout which Rovers' manager Steve Kean was barracked by the majority of his clubs fans. The balance between the two issues compounds the depressing picture that Liverpool and their fans have spent the last few hours depicting. Looked down upon tonight, English football appears as an ugly vomit of a place where any sort of abuse (racial, familial, professional) is validated by the intangible quality of loyalty. The football fan looks like someone who should hate Kean for being bad at his job and love Suarez for being good at his - because that, apparently, is all that matters. Football fans don't have to hate or love anyone, but if they want to they need to consider more than the man's professional ability. If they don't, they are stupid and the rest of us need to tell them that.