Irony, thy name is Rio

You couldn’t possibly have seen this one coming. For years, Manchester United and English national team defender Rio Ferdinand has dedicated himself to ridding soccer of its ugly and pervasive racism. Recently, he has seen his brother, Queens Park Rangers defender Anton, embroiled in an ugly did-he-or-didn’t-he case involving Chelsea (and England) star John Terry. Terry was ultimately acquitted of racially abusing Ferdinand the Lesser, although he is now being hauled up on charges by the FA, whose authority apparently supersedes that of the Crown.

Anyway, if you missed it, Rio got himself in a bit of a Twitter mess after the Terry verdict. A fan called Terry’s teammate Ashley Cole, who is black, a “choc ice” for his role in assisting the Terry defense.

“Looks like Ashley Cole’s going to be their choc ice. Then again he’s always been a sell out. Shame on him.”

Ferdinand then tweeted:

“I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic hahahahahaha!!”

He later followed that up with this bit:

“And if I want to laugh at something someone tweets….I will! Hahahahaha! Now stop getting ya knickers in a twist!”

If you’re an American, you probably don’t know that term. Over here a person who is “black on the outside but white on the inside” is referred to as an “oreo.” Apparently, Ferdinand would have us believe he meant that Cole is “a generic frozen dessert generally consisting of a block of rectangular ice cream — typically vanilla flavour — thinly coated with chocolate.”


Despite Ferdinand’s advice, the FA got its knickers in a twist, charging him with bringing the game into disrepute.

A statement on the organisation’s website said: “The allegation is that the player acted in a way which was improper and/or bought the game into disrepute by making comments which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race. Ferdinand has until August 2 to respond.”

As we’ve noted before, racism of an overt and virulent form that one simply doesn’t see in pro sports in the US is all too common in Europe, and Ferdinand has himself been a target for the ignorant ravings of society’s most disappointing elements. As bad as I hate Man U, I have nonetheless been a big fan of Rio’s efforts on that front.

In that context, then, today’s developments are nearly unfathomable. I’m in no position to judge whether one black man’s Uncle Tom style pot shot at another is justified or inexcusable or ill-advised. But what I do know is that whatever happened on the field last year between Terry and Anton Ferdinand has touched off a string of events that is doing the sport’s anti-racism campaign no good whatsoever.

World football is rife with appalling behavior by its ultras (and in some cases by its average Joes) and because the FA has an obligation to act forcefully against any appearance of racial intolerance, it now finds itself prosecuting pissant misdemeanors by rich jocks who really really ought to know better.

That the latest man int he dock is none other than Rio Ferdinand is as disappointing as it is ironic.

Image: CBC Sports