Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani Faces Three-Match Ban For Using Racial Term On Instagram

We’ve got another racially-barbed story from the world of European soccer today. Manchester United star Edinson Cavani is facing a three-match ban from the Football Association after an Instagram story he posted was judged to have violated FA rules, “comment constitutes an Aggravated Breach, which is defined in FA Rule E3.2, as it included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin.”

Sky Sports– 

The 33-year-old shared an Instagram story from a fan which featured a racially offensive term after United’s 3-2 win at Southampton on November 29, in which Cavani scored twice, including a stoppage-time winner. The post was later deleted and Cavani apologised.

United stressed the word was clearly used in an affectionate manner and has different connotations in Cavani’s home country of Uruguay.

Shortly after deleting the post, Cavani issued an apology which read: “The message I posted after the game on Sunday was intended as an affectionate greeting to a friend, thanking him for his congratulations after the game.

“The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence to anyone. I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently. I would like to sincerely apologise for this.”

Here’s the story he posted:

It seems that certain languages need to consider updating their vernacular. Just last week, we saw another racially incendiary situation arise during the PSG-Istanbul Basaksehir Champions League game when the 4th referee distinguished which player was to receive a yellow card by saying “that negru.” Some people said that in the referee’s native language of Romanian, “negru” means “black guy” (as opposed to something more offensive). This did little to exonerate him, as nobody could understand why he felt the need to utilize race as an identifier in that situation at all. In a remarkable show of unity, both teams walked off the pitch and refused to play until the referee had been removed and a replacement found.

Racism has plagued soccer for years. In 2011, Liverpool star Luis Suarez received an eight-match ban for allegedly calling Patrice Evra “negrito”—the same term that Cavani used in his post. Both Suarez and Cavani hail from Uruguay. Both men claimed that the term means something different in their country, that it is less of an insult and more a term of affection.

It seems obvious that no soccer star should be using this term at all. If nothing else, Cavani should have learned from Suarez’s mistake. At the same time, it feels important to note the contextual differences between Cavani’s and Suarez’s incidents. Cavani’s post seems to clearly invoke the term in a friendly way, as he uses the handshake emoji immediately following the word and was thanking the guy. Whereas Suarez is a psychopath who bites people constantly and was talking smack to Evra on the field. Chances are, he meant it as a racial slur.

This isn’t to justify Cavani’s use of the term. As I said, these guys need to be smarter. Who cares what your word means in your country. You’re playing in England now, as Suarez was, and you need to know that certain words can’t travel with you. These clubs should legitimately have a word guy who informs new signings which words they can’t say anymore. Cavani is a star player (he scored two goals during the game which led to his “thank you” on Instagram). If United is willing to pay for chefs and trainers and equipment guys for the team, they should definitely add a banned-word vocab tutor to the payroll.

Unfortunately, for the sake of consistency, I think the FA needs to uphold the three-match ban for Cavani. You can’t make exceptions when you’re trying to stamp out racism. If nothing else, the ban would serve as another reminder of the weight of certain words—a reminder that sadly should not be necessary.