|Terry and Suarez shake hands before Chelsea's game with Liverpool|
Let me start by saying I abhor any form of racism, just as I abhor any kind of prejudice based on age, class, disability, income, gender or intellectual prowess. In my book we are all equal. The roadsweeper or the film star, the professor or the beggar - I wouldn't look down or up at any of them. They are my equals. But I think that the way that Suarez and Terry have been treated is over the top. Their unpleasant insults happened in the heat of sporting battles and though reprehensible, the official responses they met should have been tempered with rather more common sense.
When I was a boy, I noticed how children had a habit of digging away at other children's differences. Kids who wore glasses were "specky four eyes", red haired kids were "carrot tops", fat kids were "Fatty". Even in adult life, such ribbing based on people's differences is quite commonplace but it's only when the issue of race - especially skin colour - is addressed that hackles of justice are raised. There's a sense that authorities, business and sporting organisations are eager to appear politically correct by stomping on suspected racism like the seventeenth century burghers of Salem, Massachusetts
I have never been inside the heads of either Suarez or Terry to discern whether or not they are truly racist but as footballers they have each grown up alongside talented black players, sat side-by-side with them in dressing rooms, walked out with them onto the pitch, embraced them in goal celebrations. In the heat of battle, unwise things may be said, unwarranted insults voiced. Does such stupidity deserve the weight of so-called justice that has descended on these two players? I think not. Warnings and opportunities to apologise would have been the sensible way forward.
In towns and cities all over the world, ordinary citizens endure a great deal of unpleasantness that never attracts close scrutiny from authorities. Yet here we have two high profile footballers who haven't hit anybody, haven't vandalised anyone's property, haven't caused persistent night-time disturbances or defrauded the taxman but despite that they find themselves pilloried, charged with racism, embroiled in costly legal battles to clear their names. I shake my head. The world has gone mad.