The CSG felt the headline was grossly misleading and damaging to John Terry, Chelsea Football Club and it’s supporters……
Dear Sir (? Mr Blackhurst),
On September 28th the front page of the Independent carried a picture of John Terry with the headline “Captain, Leader, Legend, Racist”. This was just not a slanderous attack on Chelsea’s captain, it was a deliberate and calculated insult to Chelsea Football Club and to hundreds of thousands of Chelsea supporters both in Britain and abroad.
We wish to bring the following points to your attention.
1. John Terry was acquitted by a court of law of a “racially aggravated” public order offence. He was then charged by the Football Association with using abusive language and also of using a word which referred to colour or race.
2. In its written verdict on the case, published on October 5th, the FA Regulatory Commission makes the following statement – Paragraph 3.4:
“It is not the FA’s case that Mr. Terry is a racist. There is a large body of testimonial evidence, including statements from black footballers, to say that he is not.”
3. In its conclusions on the case the Commission states – Paragraph 9.5 (iv):
“It is accepted by everyone involved in the criminal and disciplinary proceedings that Mr. Terry is not a racist.”
4. It is therefore quite wrong to accuse John Terry of racism, let alone brand him as a racist as your front page headline did, using red ink just in case anyone might miss it. This is not simply a matter of an opinion or a choice of words.
5. This is something you must have been well aware of before publishing your headline. After the Football Association announced the summary verdict – on the afternoon of September 27th, well before the Independent went to press – Lord Herman Ouseley was interviewed by Richard Bacon of the BBC about the case. Lord Ouseley, as you presumably know, was formerly chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and now heads Kick It Out, the official anti-racist campaign in football. During this BBC interview Lord Ouseley stated:
“This isn’t about John Terry being a racist. And clearly no one should be accusing, and no one has accused, John Terry of that.”
6. We do not know what John Terry intends to do about your slanderous headline; that is obviously a matter for him and for his legal advisers. However, the banner about John Terry – “Captain. Leader. Legend” – is prominently displayed by supporters at Stamford Bridge, with the agreement of the Club. It is familiar nationally and internationally through television coverage. It has become a hallmark of the Club. To caricature this banner by adding the word “racist” as you did, and highlight it as well, can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to denigrate us and damage our reputation as well as John Terry.
7. Chelsea Football Club is proud of its reputation on and off the field, as are its supporters, including our reputation for opposing racism. It is probably the most multicultural professional football club in Britain, and possibly in Europe. Sixteen years ago Chelsea Football Club appointed the first black manager in the Premier League. It employs black people at every level – security staff, administrative staff, playing staff and management, including Technical Director. It also has supporters of every creed and colour, not just in Britain, but right round the world.
8. The Chelsea Supporters Group is one of several organisations set up to represent the interests of supporters, both to the Club and in general. We know these other groups share our resentment and disgust at this insult to the Club and its supporters. We now call on you to withdraw your allegation and to publish an apology, giving this apology similar prominence to your headline of September 28th – ie on the front page .
9. Copies of this letter are being sent to the Press Complaints Commission, the Football Association, Kick It Out, Chelsea Football Club, and to John Terry’s legal advisers. It will also be published on our website.
The FA ruling can be found here: