Is Luis Suarez a racist?

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By Nadeem Akhtar 

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez has had a very tough week. There’s no doubt about it, from the newspaper headlines to blogposts and broadcast media he has been branded a racist. What is no doubt a very harsh punishment has been welcomed by the FA, the PFA and even SAF himself. I have yet to decide what I think would have been a fair punishment however I prefer to wait for the facts. I wish the media had done the same but as we all know quality jounalism and non-opinionated reports are hard to come by these days.

The initial uproar surrounded two words, one or both of which were allegedly used by Suarez – ‘negro’ and ‘negrito’. Then came the backlash against Liverpool for supporting Luis Suarez, a “convicted racist”. To this I would respond with a quote from the LFC official statement on the matter:

“It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said ‘I don’t think that Luis Suarez is racist’.  The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suarez was not racist.”

And that’s the end of that debate, Luis Suarez was not being racist when he insulted Evra but has been handed down a hefty ban- one which (by its length) implies that Luis Suarez WAS racist towards Patrice Evra. This is the reason LFC and Luis Suarez feel aggrieved by the decision and this is why LFC have responded in the way they have. Whether you like it or not, LFC are entitled to defend their players especially when they firmly believe he has been unfairly treated.

Being part of an ethnic minority myself, i’m a strong proponent of tolerance and harmony between races and cultures. I can understand the need for perspective in this situation. I didn’t jump to conclusions when the reports began, I decided to do some research and make my own mind up.

What I discovered is “negrito” is not a derogatry term in any way and in fact it doesn’t always refer to someones colour. As demonstrated by Dani Pacheco (Liverpool), Thiago Alcantara (Barcelona) and Chicharito (Man United), It is used in Spanish speaking countries openly when referring to friends (whether they are black African or not).



Next up was the term “Negro”. At first i thought this was blatantly referring to the colour black. And although it is an acceptable way of reffering to a black person in Spanish-speaking countries it is clearly a step up from “negrito”. However, Luis Suarez isn’t from Spain so we have to consider the dialect of Spanish that Suarez speaks. “Rioplatense” Spanish is that dialect, and surprisingly one in which “Negro” does not refer to a persons skin colour. Bare with me while i attempt to explain. The most notable example i could find was by football teams in Argentina unveiling banners reading the words “Fuerza Negro” in support of Fernando Caceres who was hospitalised after being shot in a carjacking.

I am not Spanish so I don’t know the literal meaning of the phrase (although I’m told it has something to do with strength) but i do know that Caceres is not Black African and this is clearly not a racial term in Argentina. I understand why it would seem that way even to people from Spain and Mexico, it is, after all a completely different dialect. But whenever i mentioned this to anyone they claimed “Negro” was racially motivated and these banners were from Argentina not Uruguay or Spain. However Rioplatense Spanish is a dialect used in Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and URUGUAY.

After seeing those banners I was convinced Suarez MAY have a case, so I decided to see how common the term is. I did a quick twitter search, (considering the time of year and my extremely limited spanish vocabulary) for “Feliz Navidad mi negro”. The results are plain to see. Its very clear how openly this term is used by many hispanic users when referring to family and friends of which in most cases neither the sender nor the recipient was Black African.

The FA, I am sure knew all of this. It didn’t take long for me to find all these examples but the FA took over 2 months to make the decision to charge Suarez. They did so “Coincidently” just 2 hours after Sepp Blatters handshake comments. Now I am not saying Evra has done anything wrong. I don’t know how true the reports are about Evra’s own insults towads Suarez but it is generally accepted that their conversation took place in Spanish. I am assuming Suarez must have been speaking in Rioplatense, Evra must have learnt Peninsular Spanish (European). Words were used that were offensive to Evra and just a bit of banter for Suarez.

The FA first had to decide whether or not Suarez was racist, as stated by LFC, they decided he was NOT. Then they had to decide whether or not he abused Evra with mention to his colour. From the screenshots above it would seem not, the FA disagree. They have clearly decided Evra, a Frenchman speaking Spanish to a Uruguayan in an English Premier League game was referred to as a black man. Suarez understandably must have been dumbfounded when the allegations of racism were made. I will end with a quote from Tim Vickery, in an article he wrote for the BBC.

“The Round against Racism” was nothing of the sort. In reality, cynically and opportunistically, it was the “Round against Blatter”.

The English FA has now left itself open to the same accusation of cynicism. What Suarez is alleged to have done is wrong, to draw attention to the colour of someone’s skin in a manner that could be construed as pejorative is not acceptable in our reality.

There is a clear case for punishment as part of a process of education. BUT the eight-game ban would seem to go MUCH further.”

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  1. Regardless of want had happened the fact of the matter is Suarez has now been charged and banned for 8 matches. To argue whether he meant to discriminate or not, it still doesn’t change the fact the FA has decided that he has done something wrong. I do agree that the ban is quite harsh, but we need to move on from this matter as it has been going on for far too long now. I just hope that the FA can be consistent and take the same actions on another incident involving John Terry and Anton Ferdinand.

    1. AJ would you be able to just “move on” if someone or some organisation, with limited understanding of the whole issue, had decided you were guilty of an offence, to which you disagreed with, and especially if you believed you had evidence to support your view?

    2. This is the best and most informed article on this i would like to know why the fa did not charge evra when he said himself that he made a racist remark to luis

  2. I think Evra has got his pound of flesh, he must have known the terms spoken, the way I see it Evra must have put the complaint in, in the first place. thats what Suarez called me? then? said but he’s not a racist, what a load of bull, something else must have been said.
    The truth must come out and explained in full by the bumbling F A. if not this is a snowball that can only get bigger and out of all proportion.
    Yes racism must be stamped out, Liverpool Football club tannoy this message to the whole of the ground at Anfield before the start and during the game, so why would anyone related to the club behave in such a manner.
    This is nothing but a stupid F A kangeroo court, gone bonkers.

  3. Funny how folks are looking to find an excuse to let a bigot and a racist to the bone go free. You only have to go no further to see racism in Argentine if you do a simple google search about how bigoted that country is. With Spain and Italy next in line.

    I am glad that asshole has been thought a fucking lesson. Racists don’t get quarters. Suarez is a Racist and should be banned from EPL. I am sure La Liga and Serie A will open their door wide open for him.

    1. Just a very quick note on what you said – Suarez comes from Uruguay…and to imply that everyone from Argentina is a very naive comment. My friend who happens to be black, has a best mate who is Argentinian. People can put anything on google, and to be honest your a bigot yourself for what you just wrote.

  4. From Momo

    Seems to me the anti- Liverpool supporters are just a bunch of ignorant bashers who are bothering us here without knowing anything serious about the current issue and all their posts seem to be a “tempête dans un verre d’eau” literally a storm in a glass of water. For their knowledge, Suarez was charged only for misconduct (according to the FA rules) and not for blatant racism which is quite different and he still has the right to defend his name and reputation.

    The FA was very cautious not to label him as racist given his roots and lineage, and as well the fact his alleged misbehavior has no similar proven misconducts prior to the current case in the past.

    Suarez doesn’t belong to any organization that makes of racism a political or ideological agenda. He has never participated nor attended any meeting involving people committed to racism. He has never written anything racist nor did he give any public support to racist organizations. On the contrary of that, he has many times committed himself into charities related to anti-racism activities.

    All in all it was a fierce exchange of harsh words between two competitors who were under high pressure and if the bashers had ever played football on a real pitch they would’ve been aware that after only minutes of hard effort any player would lose a bit of his mind in one way or another. There’s a scientific explanation to that, beyond 100 heartbeats/min your brain can’t sustain an everlasting effort at this rate without seeing your judgment being clouded, not to mention what can happen to you if you are compared to the highly trained professionals whose heartbeats are at an incredible rate of 160/min when they sustain their effort for long spells during a game.

    That’s why we pay fat salaries for the star players, those who don’t rely only on their skills but also on their reflexes or instinctive reaction when put under high pressure.

    Now you haters, since you begin to understand the complexity of the issue, don’t tell me you don’t know it is Evra who started first all this mess, In the second half when the pressure was at the climax he threw the word “sudaca” at the face of Suarez, I quote “Don’t touch me you Sudaca” to which Suarez under pressure himself too responded by “porque negro?” And if any of those LFC haters have any relatives or friends in Spain they’d tell them “Sudaca”is a harsh and a derogatory way to describe someone’s origin, you can’t use it when talking to foreigners coming from South America unless you are intending to insult them.Go to check my words at courtesy of Antoine Zamit.

    Now the press in London and Manchester have reported the insult as” don’t touch me you south american” in their translation which is quite different from the real meaning that should’ve been “you man of low degree from south America”.

    Still, the real question here is where did Evra a french player learn such a vicious term and who taught him how to get into Suarez’s mind through the same harsh and pejorative term referring to his ethnicity? These questions must be addressed seriously and sooner the better.

    However there is worse in that game, what happened between the referee Marriner and Evra later after Kuyt was fouled by Evra shows you how far the latter had gone, I quote “you’re only booking me because I’m black” ,at that particular moment of the game Evra seemed to have lost the plot completely.

    Evra has evidently charged the referee of racist motivations for booking him which is tougher than Suarez’s allegedly misconduct which was after all just a response to a racist word coming out of Evra’s mouth and referring to Suarez’s ethnicity. The 08 games ban should’ve been thrown at the face of “big mouth” Evra and not big heart Suarez.

    Moreover, given the FA’s several respect campaigns and that they recently decided to charge Liverpool with failing to control their players for arguing an official’s decision the other day against Fulham, there seems a case to be made for Evra facing disciplinary action for his words to Andre Marriner regardless of the final outcome for Suarez.

    Anyway, at the end of the day If everything had been taken in account with fair an balance, the two players would’ve been banned for 1 game each, fined and forced to attend conferences about the FA rules dealing with racism and ethnicity issues, but I suppose the dark forces that are more interested in maintaining the Football industry under “control” have found in Liverpool the perfect scapegoat to gain respectability at our expense with the billionaires seeking high profile in UK through footy business. It’s been the same case since 1985 up to date. That makes me wonder where the money comes from during the election campaigns but this is another story.

    Yet, we have to be patient, both the obedient press and anti-Liverpool mass-media are set to lose their fire power and momentum after 2013 when Al Jazeera Sports network will make a breakthrough for the Football TV rights with a larger audience and down the process lower fees for all the viewers around the world.

    Now, all this bunch of haters that look like little toys in the hands of master puppeteers – well hidden either in London or Manchester – are in a big worry and they seem to be unhappy with our reaction in spite of all the press hype, yes we are holding our heads high no matter what the freaks are doing. So let me tell you something all of you, coming up here and there to bash us is not only a shame but a suicidal gesture too.

    Suarez is one of ours, and we will stand by him no matter what you or your masters are plotting against us and whether they are happy or not.

    1. I have never heard such a crock of bullshit.

      The real deal is when the big heart Suarez was under pressure, the true colors of his racist self buried deep in that “big heart” of his came out crawling like a cockroach in the dark. Shame on him.

      The truth is always buried deep in the heart and we have seen what Suarez is made of. Nothing you or anyone says will ever change the fact that Suarez is a lying racist.

      Hope Suarez knows that redemption comes from within and apologize instead of crying foul.

      Racism is the roots of all evil and have no place in our society. Talented players like Suarez have to be made an example for their bigoted acts so that the next generation takes a good note and learn that there is no tolerance for racists in our society.

      For those die hard fans, get your head out of your asses. The issue is bigger than team loyalty. It’s about respecting humanity and nipping racists in their place.

      1. Then what about “John Terry- Anthon Ferdinand” Case,Do the FA and their dark allies see the evil only in Liverpool or what?
        Dan you are biased,at least hundreds and hundreds other cases can be uncovered since the early days of the prem.But only today,you and and your mates are making a case of racism running in the green parks of England.What is at stakes here has nothing to do with club loyalty but goes way beyond imagining.Football and racism can’t walk alongside each other,that’s why Evra must be severly punished in a first place,and so must be Terry.

        However,on a long term education is better.The FA would’ve been less embarrassed had the final decision been a short ban for the two players with a severe warning addressed to the league saying next time anything similar takes place the punishment will be harsher.

        1. I agree there have been many many other racist things that have been said in the past. You are right things are not even handed for thing that had taken place in the past compared to today. However, would you suggest we go back in time and punish all of them people with bigoted foul mouth? If so, I am with you but both you and I know that won’t happen. What we have to go forward by is that today the standards are different while the awareness is much higher and bigotry is consequential. We can only live by what we do about the actions of today and pave the way for a better football world for all. I don’t care what team Suarez is playing for but what he has done is wrong and he needs to own up to it.

          What is more important is that the football world is talking about equality and the fact that discrimination based on the color of ones skin is unacceptable while we know we still have a long way to go to even out the playing field.


  5. Well said, Dan. Some things are more important than goals or even football clubs, as I’m sure even Shanks would agree.

  6. Good research was done to write this article. There are more examples of the use of the words negro in Uruguay: * famous musician commonly called “Negro Rada” – his official website is * The captain of the team that won the 1950 world cup is usually called “Negro Jefe” (black boss). Nevertheless there are ways to say any word that could make it offensive. That’s why the FA should base his sentence in the audio which apparently doesn’t exist. Otherwise, there will always be reasonable doubt.

  7. As an uruguayan I’m shocked for the ignorance and bad will of FA.
    I’ve made some comments in a Parker article (at uk.eurosport) trying to add some evidence on this… but my posts were blocked.
    One of the most important singers in Latin America was the cuban singer Celia “la Negra” Cruz. She used with PROUD this moniker, and she was black and she was an activist against discrimination too. More, three of her hits where “Mi negro está cansao”, “El negro bembón” y “La negra tiene tumbao” (just try youtube)
    And you have the mexican musician Salvador “el Negro” Ojeda, the colombian musician “Negro” Patiño (singer of Sonora Morena band), the argentinian musician Eduardo “Negro” Sosa (and he’s not black).
    More, “el Negro” González Oro is one of the most important argentinian journalists.
    And the most importan uruguayan singer is Rubén Rada, a long time fighter against discrimination in all the world and life time grammy achievement award. The moniker he also uses with pride is… Negro. (Check it in google, see the name of his official site)
    And one more thing. This not about any spanish dialect. Is a matter of SPANISH language. The word we use for black colour is “negro”. Now I’m using a pair of black shoes while I’m writing this. In spanish is “zapatos negros”.
    Is a totally neutral and indispensable word in spanish and all its variants. It’s imposible to resign it.
    Then, from Spain to México and Chile, all of the spanish speaking countries are racists according to FA and the new champions of tolerance in England.
    I will try to remember this the next time I visit the shop for a pair of black shoes or a pencil.

    This affair about Suarez is a heavy injury to spanish language and culture. Remember that spanish is the third most spoken language in the world.

    Try to do better searchs, Nadeem. Listen some music and songs of the artists listed. And remember: it’s not just about banners and regionalism.

    1. As you may see I wanted to use the word PRIDE in capital letters when referring to la Negra Celia Cruz.
      Sorry. I apologize for my less than basic and tarzanesque english. (But I’m sure it’s better than Suarez’)

      1. Another one I forgot to mention: the most and popular loved argentinian singer: the late Mercedes “la Negra” Sosa. Leftist, exiled, long time activist against all forms of discrimination…
        There are a lot of more as I said.

        Who the hell is defending Suarez against thoses monsters of hipocrisy and ignorance (and not so hidden racism) in some press and associations?

  8. I will add something more: If someone really wants to insult other people in a racist way, it’s not enough to say “Negro” or “negrito” only. The same happens with the word “White” in the American Deep South (and maybe in England. I don’t know). There, they add the word “trash”, and uses the expression “White trash”.

    Finally, I would pay to see Sir (?) Alex Ferguson, Evra, Parker, the so called “wise men” of FA and the british press calling racists to all the musicians and social activists that love to be known as “negros” or “negras” in Latin America.

  9. It’s true that certain terms can be used in a friendly way (negro, negrito), but when he says “no hablo con los negros” (I don’t speak with black people), it’s clearly a racist behaviour! But it doesn’t mean he is a racist and it can only be a provocation as you can hear every day in a football pitch…

  10. Regardless of whether Suarez’s comment of “Negro” is an acceptable friendly term in Uruguay, the simple fact is that he has admitted calling PE this term in a very volatile situation. This can only be construed as an abusive comment in the context of the situation. For various people on a lot of different sites to say that the comment is accepotable in Uruguay is unbelievable. It could also be said that to call an African American in Alabama a nigger is also acceptable (a generalisation to the KKK being based in America) simply put Mr. Suarez is plying his trade in the EPL and MUST comply with the incumbent’s rules… And we all can read that he admitted to calling PE a Negro and that there was hostility between the two players leading to a conclusion that it was abusive and because of the content racially abusive.

    1. We are not talking about what Uruguay. We are talking about the spanish language. And that word and its derivatives is widely accepted as not racist in EVERY spanish speaking country.
      But FA has chosen to believe PE allegations, without a single proof.

  11. Now the report is out we can all see the reasons why Suarez was guilty….the word (s) maybe used in general conversation etc…but it wasn’t used in this way he repeatedly called him Black (negro) and said he wouldn’t speak to him because he was black…..that is offensive and is racist. I can produce banners and twitter with lots of the use of black (Ghana for example)….but if I was to say to someone I won’t speak to you because you are black..that would be offensive and I would rightly be punished.

  12. @rob – Evra said that, but not Suarez. Suarez acknowledged he used word negro only once. por que negro? Evra said he called him nigger about 10 times, then 5, then 7, then it was not nigger but negro… etc. I do believe in Suarez, I didn’t see there’s any evidence to support Evra’s claim.

  13. I am uruguayan, and I actually live in Uruguay. We don’t use the word “Negro” as offensive. We usually refer our friends as “Mi Negro” or “Mi negra” (My black one) whether they are black or white, whether our attitude is possitive or not. We could easily think about a situation in which we disagree:
    I could say: “No,mi negro, no tenés razón.” (literally translated: “no, my black one, you’re wrong”, all this in “discussion context”, and we are offending none of our friends.
    The sad fact is that there is some racist people in our country that teach their childrens that “white=good people, black=thieves..”
    Obviously the most of our people don’t think in this way, it’s the people who can’t access everyday to the press, and media, for the richest people in Uruguay is indeed racist, in most cases, especially in the richest part of Montevideo (the capital).
    Luis Suarez is not from the capital, nor he was rich while his childhood.

    And by the way, “Sudaca” is a great offense, which means as it was explained above: a person of low degree that comes from the southest countries of South America, at the eyes of european people. Term usually applied to argentinians and uruguayans.

  14. I am uruguayan as well, and believe me, to our eyes as a country this has been by far one of the most harsh and unfair punishments the FA has made, and for all of you Suarez’s haters out there, you really think if he was actually a racist he would do things like this?

    You may also want to take into consideration the fact that he grew in a mid-low economic level context, and is a really humble person as well

    just for the record, in spanish speaking cultures we have a saying which is “no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver” which in english would mean something like “None so blind as those who will not see”

    btw really good article, nice to see some people first research and then take their opinion

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