T-shirts and tit-for-tat: Kick It Out still “trying to engage” with Rio Ferdinand on racism

By Kait Borsay

Last night Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome claimed he was racially abused by Leeds defender Giuseppe Bellusci in the Championship game between the two sides. Kait Borsay asks why some high profile players are still not working with organisations that are there to protect them.

Rio Ferdinand and Kick It Out - can relationships be repaired?

Rio Ferdinand and Kick It Out – can relationships be repaired?

On 20 October 2012, Rio Ferdinand and a number of well-known footballers decided against wearing t-shirts provided by anti-discrimination organisation Kick it Out which read “One game, One community”.

Two years on and following the release of Ferdinand’s autobiography, #2sides, the story rumbles on.

In the book, Kick It Out get something of a kicking from the ex-England defender, still sour over what he perceives as a lack of support from the organisation. T-shirts were back in the thick of it again, this time Ferdinand accusing the organisation of being “too scared” to wear them in court during the race trial involving his brother, Anton, and John Terry.

Despite the renewed ire from Ferdinand, Kick It Out’s media and communications manager, Richard Bates, says they would still like to work with him. Speaking to The Offside Rule (We Get It!) on Monday he said:

“We would still love to talk to him. We tried to take steps to engage with Rio but there has been nothing yet, we would like to work more closely with him”

“A lot was said about the t-shirt boycott, both of the brothers did wear the t-shirt a week later though (before their respective games against Arsenal and Chelsea) and issued a statement saying they would look to work with us privately – but this was not mentioned in the book”

Ferdinand and his fellow professionals, including Jason Roberts and Jolean Lescott targeted the t-shirt campaign to bring to light the argument that football was not doing enough to combat racism.

In a case involving his own family, Ferdinand’s brother, Anton, accused Chelsea’s John Terry of racial abuse. The former England captain was acquitted in a criminal court but later found guilty of misconduct at a Football Association hearing and banned for four matches.

Despite Ferdinand’s misgivings in #2sides over Kick It Out not wearing it’s own t-shirt in court, the organisation were present each day. Presumably by a representative wearing more appropriate courtroom attire.

In the best seller, the Queens Park Rangers defender also described the organisation as “useless”.

Herman Ouseley, the Kick It Out chairman, told the Guardian earlier this month that they had unfairly been treated as Ferdinand’s “punchbag”.

Bates said: “It’s disappointing. Two years ago we sensed this may be coming – some sort of revolution – at the time, players didn’t really understand what Kick it Out was about.

“We’re a small charity, a reporting bureau for discrimination in the game. We feel players used our t-shirt campaign as a vehicle to vent their frustration at the likes of the FA and the Premier League, who can take direct action.

“We feel our reputation was damaged. We’re still working hard to try to recover the support of certain players.”

All this against a backdrop that showed great promise, in the week following their t-shirt boycott, both Ferdinand brothers released a wide-ranging statement, pledging to work with the PFA, FA and Kick It Out. The statement read:

“In the coming months there will be ongoing discussions, we are sure, on finding a way forward. We intend to participate in these discussions.

“On the issue of Kick It Out, we would like to go on record to say what fantastic work they have done in the past regarding education and awareness. However, times change and organisations need to change with them. We are more than happy to join the discussion, privately, to make Kick it Out more relevant in its fight to stamp out racism in football.”

Kick It Out’s phone calls to Ferdinand, however, remain unanswered.

Kick It Out has a number of reporting methods available to anybody who has seen, heard or been on the receiving end of discriminatory abuse in a football environment. Click here for more information.

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