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English Soccer's John Terry Found Not Guilty Of Racial Abuse

A "not guilty" verdict has been handed down in a case that has been front-page news for months in Great Britain:

John Terry, former captain of England's national soccer team and captain of the English Premier League's Chelsea Football Club, "has been cleared of racially abusing fellow footballer Anton Ferdinand," the BBC writes.

The Guardian has a long piece that goes into considerable detail about what Terry was accused of having said during a game against Ferdinand's Queens Park Rangers last October. Warning: it includes many words we can't publish. Ferdinand, by the way, didn't register a complaint. He apparently didn't hear what Terry said. The original complaint came from an off-duty police officer who was watching on TV, the Guardian says.

Today, according to the BBC:

"Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said he had heard a great deal of evidence to show Mr. Terry was not a racist. In his written judgement, he said that after weighing the evidence it was 'highly unlikely' that Mr Terry abused Mr Ferdinand in the manner he was accused of.

"Mr Riddle went on: 'The prosecution evidence as to what was said by Mr Ferdinand at this point is not strong. ... It is therefore possible that what he [Mr Terry] said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him. In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.' "

But as columnist Steven Baxter writes for the New Statesman, the not guilty verdict "doesn't mean that racism is never, was never, and will never be a problem" in English football. And, he writes:

"Don't hide behind fandom and club loyalty to protect '"your' players when they behave appallingly — if you do, you are just as guilty as they are. Everyone has to work together to stop racism from blighting our showpiece sport, and it starts with the fans. If some will continue to believe that 'their' players have done nothing wrong, and line up to defend those who have done indefensible things, we will get nowhere."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.