John Terry is an uncompromising kind of defender. Football in the Premier League is a pretty rough sport and Terry throws himself around with considerable intensity. Foul language is part of the game in England but on October 23, Terry is accused of stepping over the line.
He is alleged to have used racially abusive language against Queen's Park Rangers' player Anton Ferdinand.
Following an investigation by the police Terry has been charged with "a racially aggravated public order offense."
Terry issued a statement saying, "I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends. I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence."
Terry is not alone in facing difficulties over racist language. Liverpool's Luis Suarez was suspended for 8 games and fined £40,000 ($62,700) yesterday for allegedly calling Manchester United's Patrice Evra, "negrito," during a match earlier this year.
It may seem odd that racist name calling could bring such harsh penalties but professional football in England has had a long and dishonorable history when it comes to race. On the field and in the stands, black players were facing the kind of abuse in the 1980's and 1990's that Jackie Robinson dealt with in the 1940's when he broke the color line and and became the first African-American to play baseball in the major leagues.
When the Premier League was formed, English soccer became thoroughly international and a critical mass of black players fully integrated the game. The organization Kick it Out monitors racism and discrimination in all aspects of football.