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The Other Word in the John Terry Trial: Part 1

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credit: Paulblank on Wiki Commons

PART 1 of 3

This post is about the final word in the three-word phrase Chelsea footballer John Terry called QPR‘s Anton Ferdinand during a game late last year, a phrase now made infamous due to a trial this summer held to determine if Terry had been racially abusive towards Ferdinand. As this trial made clear, the word in question is very casually thrown around on the soccer pitch, at least in England.

The irony in regards to this post? The phrase in question is considered by most, including the editors of this site, to be too offensive to actually write. The Guardian, though, does not have such reservations, so if you’d like to read the phrase uncensored, it’s here.

From here on out, the phrase will be referred to as FBC. When the final word in this phrase is mentioned alone, it will simply be: c___.

So…let’s talk “c___.”

The end of the case resulted in an acquittal for Terry. The court upheld Terry’s side of the story: “It was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed [Ferdinand] had said to him.” It came down to there being enough doubt about the intent behind and the context of Terry hurling those words that the judge could not convict him.

Terry doesn’t deny saying the words, though. And they were part of a longer exchange. Ferdinand’s testimony:

“He called me a c___, and I called him a c___back. And he gave me a gesture as if to say my breath smelled. I said to him: How can you call me a c___? You shagged your team-mate’s missus, you’re a c___.” [via]

In all of this yelling back and forth, “FBC” made its appearance. This is fact.

Following the acquittal, the Crown Prosecution Service‘s Chief Prosecutor, Alison Saunders, defended the decision to go to trial by saying:

“The very serious allegation at the heart of this case was one of racial abuse. It was our view that this was not “banter” on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court.” [via]

In short, the prosecution felt that Terry said “black” in a pejorative way. Had he either meant it not negatively (which would be hard in an insult) or had he just said “FC” (without the B), the CPS would have deemed the altercation simply as “banter.”

Gendered insults = banter. Got it.

Let’s get some things out of the way first:

1) I don’t want to play oppression olympics. There are realhonest reasons that football culture in England cares about racism much, much more than misogyny: black players face racism on and off the pitch all the time.

This is not about saying that the gendered language in this slur is MORE important than the racist implication of addressing Ferdinand’s skin color. I’m just saying that such language IS a problem, especially because no one seems to care about that part.

2) This is not a discussion about who should be prosecuted for saying what in what context. That should be a discussion, yes, but one held elsewhere.

So, why did both Terry and Ferdinand choose that word to use when insulting the other, and why doesn’t anyone care?

Continue onto part 2.

You can contact or follow Jessica on Twitter: @scATX.

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