Ferguson wrong to get shirty with Ferdinand over ‘Kick It Out’ protest
It seems Sir Alex Ferguson has already moved to quell a potential dispute with Rio Ferdinand following his vow to "deal with" the former England defender.
Ferdinand’s offence? To break ranks and, in his manager’s words, "embarrass" Manchester United by refusing to don a t-shirt promoting the English FA’s ‘Kick It Out’ campaign before their 4-2 win over Stoke.
Just 24 hours earlier Ferguson had insisted that, despite widespread reports to the contrary, his centre-half would indeed wear a shirt emblazoned with the logo of the anti-racism initiative.
Yet as predicted, Fedinand abstained, and Ferguson was defied. And if there is one thing the brusque Glaswegian cannot stomach, it is defiance. Ask Jaap Stam, ask David Beckham – even ask Roy Keane.
The Scot is undoubtedly an unwavering supporter of the campaign, and even more so in the principle of solidarity. Yet one suspects it was Ferdinand’s sedition to his cause, not the greater good, that was the real reason for that famous burning crimson hue on Saturday.
Ferguson’s players often speak of his man-management skills and mellower side, but on this occasion he patently got it wrong. His mistake was to put himself on collision course with a star player over a matter so subjective, so personal.
Ferguson may fundamentally disagree, but Ferdinand is his own man, it was his prerogative. The 33-year-old has so far remained silent. Even his voracious appetite for Twitter hasn’t tempted him to clarify his stance.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out John Terry’s use of racist language in an altercation with his brother, Anton, and moreover a perceived weakness on the FA’s part in dealing with Terry is the elephant in the room.
And Ferdinand isn’t the first to boycott the Kick It Out campaign because of feeling let down by the officials charged with safeguarding the principles behind it. Reading’s Jason Roberts wouldn’t wear a t-shirt before the Royals’ clash with Liverpool, while Everton’s Victor Anichebe also refused to wear one before Sunday's game against QPR.
Back in 2007, then with Everton, Joleon Lescott witnessed an alleged racist comment from Newcastle United’s Emre Belozoglu towards teammate Jospeh Yobo. Lescott, along with Toffees keeper Tim Howard, submitted a statement to the FA, but Emre was cleared.
A frustrated Lescott later said: “I probably would think twice before wearing one of those t-shirts again. At the time I felt not enough was done.”
The Kick It Out campaign spreads a virtuous message and has been particularly effective at grass-roots level since its inception in 1993. Nobody dispute that. But neither can anyone tell Ferdinand, Roberts, Lescott, Anichebe or anyone else they must compromise their own beliefs.
As PFA Chairman, Clarke Carlisle, said: “Everyone has a right to free speech. You can’t coerce anyone into shaking hands, you can’t make somebody wear a t-shirt.”
Ferguson was wrong in thinking he could, and if reports are true that he has already cleared the air with Ferdinand, then it would appear he knows it.