LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Luis Suarez of Liverpool looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on February 6, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
And he'll also always be wrong, which makes writing about the latest installment in the neverending saga really tricky. Mostly it'd be nice if it all just went away, which is an awfully white-privilegey thing to write, but I think we're sort of at the point where we need to accept that as long as Luis Suarez plays in England, he'll be known as the man that was judged to have racially abused Patrice Evra, and he'll be asked for his thoughts, feelings, or opinions on the matter. Which, depending on your perceptions of right and wrong, will either provide an opportunity to celebrate a man's convictions or groan audibly at a missed opportunity to exercise the broken record technique with questions that probably don't need to be answered again.
I think that as a people we can probably operate under the assumption that, in a world where there's very little that can be classified as right or wrong, racial abuse falls definitively in the wrong category. That's sort of non-negotiable, and I'd hope that in the midst of Liverpool supporters rushing to the defense of Luis Suarez--both now and over the past nine months--are on that same page. There's nothing defensible about engaging in racial abuse, and nothing admirable about standing by someone who's done so and stands by their actions.
Writing about the comments that Luis Suarez made on Uruguayan television isn't easy, then, because it's absolutely clear that, despite a ruling from that FA that he engaged in racial abuse, Suarez believes he's done nothing of the sort. It's also clear that he's of the opinion that there was more at work than a governing body, a handshake that didn't happen, and video from the meeting at Old Trafford that's been replayed more often than the Zapruder film.
"In fact, I think it was all arranged against me again, as it had happened with the punishment. I promised my wife, the manager and the directors that I was going to shake my hand with Evra. Why not? I thought, because I had no problems with him. I had been punished because of him but I had no problems with shaking hands. But I was not forced to greet him. I had no problems with Evra. It was only a handshake and I was OK with that.
"The media in England showed the moment when I passed in front of him but they didn't see that he had his hand low before. Only the media in Uruguay and Spain showed that I wanted to shake his hand. But in England Man United has this political power and you have to respect that and shut your mouth."
It's an unsettling account of the events and the manner in which they transpired regardless of your stance--many have trumpeted this view since the original accusations and the subsequent fallout, some have maintained an uncertain stance, and others have been cringing constantly since late October. And if we're being honest, it also reads as a somewhat paranoid account of the events that transpired during the pre-match niceties that day. Contrary to the apology that followed the next day, Suarez asserts that he was ready and willing to shake Patrice Evra's hand, and that it's almost inconceivable that he would consider any action to the contrary.
Unfortunately actions to the contrary did occur, and while many of us found it inconceivable, there's a lingering context to the action (or inaction, or whatever) that won't go away. Liverpool supporters have championed the video evidence, while most of the rest of the footballing world--to which Liverpool's had a tenuous connection at best over the past two seasons--just saw it as another spiteful act by a man that's done little right since he arrived in England.
That doesn't mean that his comments reignite a race row or row in a race of reignition, though. They're not--at least I hope they're not--geared to offend anyone any further, even though it's very easy to see how they could be offensive. They're comments that indicate Luis Suarez genuinely believes he didn't engage in racial abuse, and that he was the victim of a system that didn't allow for any other outcome than for him to be the villain.
Much more problematic, at least for Liverpool supporters, is that he might have actually been the villain, and that the quasi-apologia is nothing more than an effort to work his way back into the good graces of the unconvinced among Liverpool supporters and football fans in general. That'd have been nice had it occurred much earlier in the process, but at this point, it rings untrue for many and creates a dissonance in supporting a player that very well could have engaged in behavior that contradicts the values of basic human decency.
What we're left with is lots of concepts of rights and wrongs, and questions about what fits where. Luis Suarez is a Liverpool player, and it's right to support him if you're supporting Liverpool the right way. He was judged to have engaged in racial abuse, which is wrong no matter who you support. He says he didn't do it, and standing up for yourself for not doing something that's wrong is right.
In the end, though, there's probably just John Barnes and wrong, which seems right enough.