The PFA have come out and backed the defender, with Clarke Carlisle telling BBC Radio 5 Live:
“Everyone has a right to free speech – just like you can’t coerce anyone into shaking hands, you can’t make somebody wear a T-shirt – although I do personally believe that joining in with the campaign is the best way forward.”
But former Manchester United defender Viv Anderson told MUTV:
“I don’t agree with Rio.
“You can see the manager was fuming and clearly he didn’t know anything about it.
“He expects his senior boys to set an example. He is the manager. If he says we are all doing it together, it should be the end of the story.
“But Rio has gone the other way. I don’t see where he is coming from and I don’t know what it is going to achieve.”
Trawling through the message boards, it is clear for all to see this is truly a divisive matter but was Rio Ferdinand’s decision to shun the Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign so wrong?
On Friday Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that all of Manchester United’s players would support the campaign, so when Rio Ferdinand emerged to warm up prior to the Stoke game sans the shirt it sent shockwaves through the game. Had Rio defied Sir Alex? Had they come to an agreement?
These questions were later answered when a seemingly frustrated Sir Alex claimed Rio Ferdinand had let the club down by not wearing the shirt and then claimed the defender had embarrassed him by not wearing it.
Sir Alex said the center back would be punished, but is this fair?
Rio Ferdinand has had a tough year; he saw racism in the game trivialised by the FA and the country’s judicial system when John Terry’s trial and disciplinary hearing for apparently racially abusing his brother Anton Ferdinand were postponed so as not to clash with the European Championships. He was dropped by Roy Hodgson from the England squad to placate Terry, saw a bullet and a death threat sent to his brother by post and was jeered by Chelsea fans for defending his brother during the matter.
But this was only the public side of things.
We don’t know how it affected his family life, how it affected his mother, his father, other siblings and relatives. We often forget that despite being superstars footballers are also people just like us so inevitably these things will impact on their private lives.
Having gone through all of that he is understandably bitter towards any claims to stamp out racism, we as a sport had our chance to make a stand and we blew it with how badly we handled the Terry matter and I think Ferdinand was right to criticise the FA for getting on their high horse about what happened to Danny Rose in Serbia during the week when they can’t even effectively take care of matters on their own doorstep.
I feel Sir Alex was harsh in his analysis of Jason Roberts on Friday and, whilst the captain of the ship and ultimately what he says goes, perhaps should have consulted with his team before asserting everyone would wear the shirts, if he knew Ferdinand felt uneasy about wearing it perhaps he may not have publicly stated everyone would?
But this is where one of many questions about the whole situation arises; is there a chance that Ferdinand agreed to wear the shirt then reneged on this?
If so Sir Alex is right to be angry and would explain his comments about being ’embarrassed’ by the defender but as it stands we are non the wiser and can only deal with what we know – having gone through what he has Ferdinand decided not to wear the top.
Whilst ‘Fergie knows best’ is very much a mantra that many fans buy into, I can’t help but feel that in this instance he is wrong. If Sir Alex has taken Ferdinand’s decision not to wear the top personally and seen it as an act of defiance, you would just hope that he has the insight to try and understand why Ferdinand came to the decision he did.
It is being reported that Sir Alex will fine Ferdinand £22ok, the same amount that Terry was fined for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, and this will surely be another kick in the teeth for the defender. The shirt in itself is a form of protest against racism, so surely the same way Ferdinand reserves the right to protest by wearing it he should be allowed to protest by not wearing it?
Further to this, if Rio was forced to wear the tee would it make us any better than Liverpool and their Suarez shirts? There is still a section of people who feel the players including Glen Johnson were forced to wear them. Forcing someone to back a campaign they don’t believe in is wrong, regardless of what the campaign is for.
The matter remains a muddled one and you just hope that it is quickly dealt with in a way conducive to both Sir Alex and Rio feeling satisfied by the outcome.