Cameron Jerome Disappointed NOT to Have Been Racially Abused? – by Rob Atkinson

Bellusci & Jerome - he said, she said...

Bellusci & Jerome – he said, she said…

To the surprise of many Leeds United fans, long inured to the habit of those wielding any sort of power finding against their favourites, Whites defender Giuseppe Bellusci was cleared of a charge that he racially abused Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome. It was an accusation that had been hanging over Bellusci for too many months; one can only speculate about the effect that the ongoing issue has had on his ability to conduct a career in professional football. And yet it is still Cameron Jerome, a man who has not been unwilling in the past to fling accusations of this nature at fellow professionals, who seems to see himself as the sole victim here.

In the end, common sense prevailed. The eventual verdict amounts to a slightly insipid “not proven”, but – as I had previously speculated – it is difficult to see how the outcome could have been anything else. With one man’s word standing against another’s consistent denials (and alternative take on what was actually said) and absolutely no third-party corroboration one way or the other, it is clear which way the verdict should have gone – although there is always many a potential slip ‘twixt cup and lip. There is no reason, either, to conclude that the decision reflects ill on Jerome; there is no suggestion, after all, that he has been anything other than scrupulously truthful in his account of what he thought he heard. The outcome follows on from the acceptance of the panel that there was a misunderstanding here, aggravated by the language barrier. Unable to prove either man wrong or false in his account, what else could this judicially-convened body reasonably do?

Jerome, though, is not persuaded and feels hard done by. Possibly he feels that his honesty has been impugned, in which case somebody with a better grasp of the technicalities should perhaps sit him down and gently explain. But there appears to be some resolve on the “disappointed” Jerome’s part to pursue the matter further, if at all possible. In this, he may well be backed by the “Kick It Out” movement, who have hinted at support for the miffed striker after due consideration of the reasons behind the decision.

Kick It Out is a worthy campaign for positive good in the modern game. But are they really serving anyone’s best interests in a case where, regardless of what was actually said by both parties, it will be impossible to prove the matter one way or the other? Their offer of support to Jerome is laudable enough in itself, but it would be better directed, surely, towards explaining to the guy the difficulties of proving something without any supporting evidence – and particularly where there is a reasonable basis for supposing that neither man is lying and a misunderstanding is the real culprit here. Instead, the stance of both the alleged injured party and his potential supporters appears to be a determination to keep open this can of worms, come what may.

The fact is that, in the heat of battle, with native tongues angrily resorted to, it’s entirely reasonable and understandable that whatever was said had its intended meaning lost in translation. Bellusci says he shouted in Italian that he would “black Jerome’s eye” after suffering a foul by the Norwich forward. It is this altercation that is pictured above. The Italian word for black is “nero” – it’s easy to see how an English speaker might hear that as “negro”. That’s the word Jerome thought he heard, and that – naturally – formed the whole basis for his subsequent complaint, which he has been acknowledged to have made quite properly and conducted impeccably. There is a minor dispute here about the word used, but beyond a one letter difference that doesn’t seem to be a crucial point – and it comes under the umbrella of “misunderstanding”. Only the meaning, or sense, is substantially disputed. It meant one thing coming from Bellusci’s angry mouth, so we are told – and quite another as heard by Jerome’s outraged ear. Therein lies the crux of the misunderstanding (which cannot be disproved) – and that is why this decision was – had to be – correct.

If Jerome has any common-sense at all, and does not want to be thought of as pursuing a vendetta in pushing an unprovable point of view – if he does not, in short, want to be thought guilty of that dread phrase “playing the race card” – then he had better swallow his well-publicised disappointment and get on with playing football as he is paid to do. On the facts and the evidence, or lack thereof, there is little else he can feasibly do. The Kick It Out campaign, whatever their understandable zeal in wishing to root out racists and see them dealt with, are not serving anyone’s best interests in advising their man otherwise – least of all Cameron Jerome himself.

Massimo Cellino went on record during the long wait for this matter to be decided as saying that, if Bellusci were to be found guilty of racism, then he’d be out of the club. As simple and unambiguous as that. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that Leeds United FC has anything other than a zero tolerance policy where racism is concerned. Not every club could say as much. Leeds, let us not forget, had in Albert Johanneson the first black player in an FA Cup Final; they had a black player (Gerry Francis) in the almost entirely white British 1950s – and they supported such an effective anti-racism campaign in the 80s that the club virtually rid itself of its extreme minority, who were reduced from a vocal force in and around the Elland Road stadium to disconsolate pariahs, shunned and marginalised by genuine Leeds supporters.

If – despite the “not proven” verdict – Giuseppe Bellusci did harbour the evil of racism deep within himself, then he would have chosen the wrong club to play for in Leeds, where black players have been a vital part of successive squads ever since the pioneering contributions of Terry Connor, Noel Blake, Vince Hilaire and others, over the past four decades. If Bellusci were of this unacceptable mind, he would be found out and turfed out by the club. I am proud to be able to claim this for Leeds, a club where Nelson Mandela’s hero, Lucas Radebe, has attained a God-like status, almost literally worshipped to this day by thousands of Leeds fans for whom his black skin is either irrelevant or a matter of defiant pride. Certain other clubs are demonstrably a long, long way behind Leeds in this respect.

Let us move on now, for all that is good in the game. Let Bellusci and Jerome get on with their respective careers, let Kick It Out continue with their vital work and their increasingly educational and beneficial influence on football in this country. This case has been an unedifying spectacle for too long now, giving hope to those with unsavoury agendas and casting doubt on the ability of my club and the game as a whole to thrive in their current proudly multi-cultural complexion. It’s gone on far too long and it’s ended more honourably than might have been the case.

Disappointed or not, Cameron Jerome – and, by extension, Norwich City – it now behoves you to accept the outcome and move on. Let that process begin now.

32 responses to “Cameron Jerome Disappointed NOT to Have Been Racially Abused? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. not to mention “The black Flash” albert johanneson , the first black player to play in a cup final , 1965 v liverpool…


  2. Im just glad the FA handled the case.


  3. Mexboro'lad

    A powerful and balanced editorial – congratulations


  4. The Italian for black is “nero”.

    “Negro” is the Italian for “negro”.


    • I’ve looked at that, found it to be spot on, and adapted the piece accordingly. Many thanks.


    • Jim Bean is not real whisky

      Nero is one word for Black, others are: scuro, negro, buio, oscuro, sommerso. Negro in Italian means: relating to black people, or: a member of a dark-skinned group of peoples originally native to Africa south of the Sahara. Neither is racist or offensive.


      • Jim Beam

        Scuro and buio mean dark, oscurro means obscured (by darkness…in theory) and sommerso means submerged. Nero on the other hand….means black.


  5. LeedsLover

    Good post Rob, I agree,

    I do like how you worded the title though, makes it sound like Jerome wants to be verbally abused.

    I personally suspect Jerome does look for adding other notches on his gun though, I think he’s won one case and lost a previous case hasn’t he?.

    What I favour about Belluscis win is, after the John Terry, Tonev and other not so prolific cases, it opens the door for future falsely accused players to have more confidence in their own claims and cases where there is no evidence to support the accusers claims and, can reduce the number of cases with no evidence being reported.

    The FA don’t seem to be too happy with the Bellusci result though.


  6. Cameron Jerome obviously won’t be happy until Bellusci is banned for life, for foolishly making a lost-in-translation word mistake, while exchanging banter.
    However, all of Leeds english players or public relations staff, should have been educating the increasing amount of foreign players at the club, in what words are totally off limits, in the 21st Century.
    Leeds United have moved forward in huge leaps, since the dark days of the 1980’s racism, but this uncomfortable and embarrassing situation, has once again dragged Leeds United’s name through the dirt, when the football club already have enough problems to deal with.


  7. An excellent common sense piece mate, good on yer.


  8. daniel18387

    Norwich fan here. Rob I agree with your points entirely. If an independent review’s decision is not acceptable then what’s the point. A line should have been drawn under this, after such a decision was made. Lo and behold, the witch hunt continues…


  9. Ropey Wyla

    Excellent article Rob, very difficult subject to write about and retain balance but you have smashed it!



    Mmmm. Good article Rob. Racism, true racism is an evil thing, and should be dealt with in the strongest possible way. But I think a lot of “racism” these days is not much more than name calling. Living and working in Cumbria if I took offence every time someone called me a “a shortarsed Yorkshire Git” I’d never leave the bloody house! Mind you I always give as good as I get, and better. Would most British white people take being referred to as, say, Anglo Saxon as an insult? Really? I have Indian relatives by marriage and my best mate when I was a black barbadian lad. The racism card is all to easy to play nowadays for peoples own unscrupulous agendas. Your all just people to me, if I think your a twat I’ll tell you, whether your black, white or bloody tartan coloured.


  11. Don’t you think the headline “unproven” betrays a little resentment from the ‘independent’ committee? UK law, for instance, does not allow such ambiguity. You are either guilty or innocent. Anything else encourages the bearing of false witness, in order to strike a guaranteed compromising blow, in cases where proof cannot be obtained on either side.
    I still think that it’s perhaps niaive not to think something ‘fishy’ went on… I’ll leave it at that though!


    • I really think that it’s reflective of the fact that there was no independent evidence either way. It was a civil case, not criminal – so the test is easier to find for the complainant: balance of probabilities rather then beyond reasonable doubt. So you’re looking at two diametrically opposed statements – it has to be 50/50. “Not proven” sums it up for me.


  12. And of course with your petty hatred for Norwich in Yorkshire you wouldn`t want to believe it, despite racism being rife still in Italian football


    • What a ridiculous thing to say – even for a wurzel.


      • Leeds fan resorts to insults shock, wurzel i guess is a bit of Norfolk racism, what a surprise!


      • I could go on about the alleged anatomical issue of six fingers too. That’d be worse than “Norfolk racism” as you put it (is Norfolk a “race”?) But the anatomical defect most obvious to me is the way your leg comes off when someone pulls it. Lighten up and stop making a fool of yourself – or, if you must, do it somewhere else.


  13. Yellow rob

    Norwich fan here. Great article, with a decent summary of where we are with this debate. Very balanced. And I certainly agree that all parties, especially Jerome, need to accept the verdict for what it is and move on.

    Such a shame that you take the gloss of it off with the unnecessarily inflammatory (to the point of downright insulting) title. It really is not acceptable to state that someone would want to be racially abused. That Jerome wanted Bellusci to be found guilty of racial abuse is indisputable and that he will not accept the FA verdict is disappointing, but understandable. But your headline really is pretty disgraceful and frankly unhelpful for promoting the ends that I think we agree on. Nobody wants to be abused. If you were to say the same about an alleged rape victim who continues to assert that the other party committed rape despite an acquittal on the basis of one word against another, there would be an uproar.

    I suggest you tweak the headline to something more suitable so that people don’t prejudge your excellent write-up.


    • I gave the headline a lot of thought. I wanted it to be outrageous, because I think – in the context of the whole thing, especially the terms in which the decision was phrased, Jerome’s (and Norwich City’s) reaction was also outrageous. The verdict clearly implies that neither man is being called a liar; that misunderstanding means that conflicting evidence is not mutually inconsistent. To me – with no chip on my shoulder in this respect – if I thought I’d been racially abused and it was found that I’d simply been mistaken, I’d be rather relieved. The question we have now is: by what mental process is Jerome “disappointed”? Does he believe himself incapable of error? Does his club believe him to be right, whatever he says and despite any claims to the contrary? It was a thankless task, arbitrating over two polar-opposite points of view. I was relieved at the outcome. I wasn’t “disappointed” because Jerome’s accusation (not the first he’s made, by a long chalk) wasn’t laughed out of court. I might have been less than pleased at the slightly insipid nature of “not proven”. So might Bellusci, or Leeds United. But ultimately, you’re just happy about the common-sense outcome. Against this background, I think the “disappointment” of Jerome and Norwich is unhelpful and does nothing to pour oil on what are sadly always troubled waters. So my headline set out to parody Jerome’s reaction, and I’m quite comfortable with it.


      • Yellow rob

        Thanks for your full response.

        I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree.

        If an allegation of racism is made then it HAS to be reported. Both players got their day in court. You have to accept that. And while I agree with you that it would have been better if Jerome had chosen to say something after the event that better equated with the findings of the FA (bear in mind Norwich don’t have any real choice other than to support their player), which I think is the substantive, and best, point of your article, this has absolutely nothing to do with Jerome wanting to be racially abused.

        So the title bears no proper relationship to the article’s content. It seems to me that you’re just trying to get hits to your website. I don’t think you need to because the article is good enough without it and there are plenty who would be reading it if you made a similarly provocative title that actually bore relationship to your article’s content.

        As it is, the headline is really quite a nasty allegation. Nobody wants to be abused. People might make up allegations or mishear things, but that is not the same as wanting to be abused. Saying “X found not guilty of rape. Victim still says he did it. Clearly victim wanted to be raped” would be rightly pilloried. That would be a disgusting thing to say. And yet it is exactly the same things as you’re suggesting here.

        And that’s a real shame because you really are ruining a perfectly good, unrelated article as a result. It seems to me you are just wanting to be petty and vindictive against Jerome and Norwich. That does you no favours at all, givben that you’re accusing Jerome of the same thing…


      • I’m always happy to agree to disagree. However, I should point out that you can’t have an allegation that ends in a question mark. In the first version of the headline, the question mark wasn’t there – and I realised it took me where I didn’t want to go, so I changed it.

        I don’t accept that it “spoils” anything, and I stand by it much as our respective clubs – rightly or wrongly – stood by their players. The suggestion that I did it to attract hits, I shall put down to brief petulance on your part. It’s certainly out of step with the quite thoughtful tone of the rest of your remarks.


      • Yellow rob

        Fair enough – apologies for sounding petulant. I actually meant it in a “shrugging my shoulders, bloggers have to find a way to get people to their website” way rather than as a criticism of the technique.

        The question mark doesn’t really make any difference – a leading question is as good as a statement. I can’t make you change it and you have every right, as you say, to stand by it. But I really do think it is disappointingly “out of step” with the article (which contrary to Tim above I do not think was intended as a wind-up). And it’s disappointing, not because it’s critical of Norwich or Jerome, but for the slippery slope it implies about victims of all sorts whose interpretations and feelings clash with the burden of proof.


      • There we go then – we agree to disagree, like the civilised chaps we are (and like Tim isn’t, as you might concede if you saw his most recent effort which I had to bin).

        I’m afraid I found your alternative headline a bit clunky for my aesthetic sensibilities, although I can see what you were trying to do. It lacked the parody aspect too – and sometimes you have to risk being slightly offensive to achieve parody.

        I’m glad we had this discussion, but I think we’re at the point now where the debate is becoming circular.


  14. Have to laugh each time I read the heading. Perfectly objective statement. Says everything in itself. There are some issues that are better being dealt with privately, so that everyone can retain their dignity. Nothing wrong with Csmeron thinking that something racially was said. No harm in someone making a comment which is not a racist slur,mbutblet can be mistaken for one. Kick it out yes! Keep things in perspective too!


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