John Terry’s resignation from the England squad is encouraging news because it shows that there are consequences after all to using racially charged language.
Terry never denied speaking the words attributed to him (unlike a certain politician who’s all over the press at the moment) but claimed that context mattered, in his case, that he was rhetorically restating words that had been spoken to him. In the end, it was his word against his accusers, and he was found not guilty. The case was not proven but the stain remained. Importantly, the FA had not yet drawn a line under the affair, waiting for the outcome of the court case before announcing an investigation of their own.
The level of proof required by the FA is lower than it is for a magistrates court so it was always likely that Terry would still face censure. It explains why he chose today, the morning of the hearing against him, to issue a statement in which he claimed that the FA had made his role untenable. No John, you made your role untenable, the moment you chose to utter those despicable words. You found out the hard way – although not as hard as some would’ve liked – that there are repurcussions for footballers, whatever they’re stature, when they stoop so low as to invoke racism as a means of bettering an opponent.
It isn’t the ideal way to ram home the point that racism in football will not be tolerated. But it works well enough for now. Terry hasn’t avoided censure. His resignation has served to underline his culpability and he’s still likely to face sanctions at club level. But it was the England shirt that he coveted so much, that will be his greatest loss. A tough lesson, not tough enough maybe, but a lesson all the same.