Luis Suarez pleaded ignorance of UK culture and sought to argue that the term "negrito", which he used to describe Patrice Evra, is not offensive in Uruguay. Again, that misses the point. The question is why Suarez sought to refer to Evra's skin colour. Both players were having an argument and the FA's disciplinary panel found that Suarez used a term, which made reference to Evra's skin colour, to insult him. The context in which Suarez made the comment was key. The FA did not accept that Suarez used the term "negrito" simply to describe Evra. Rather, that Suarez made reference to Evra's skin colour in an attempt to insult him. John Terry stands accused of similar behaviour but faces a criminal trial rather than a regulatory panel.
Legal directors and HR practitioners should take care not to react to the Suarez and Terry stories in a disproportionate manner and judge any complaint in the correct context. Racism is a sensitive issue. In the of law of harassment the perception of the victim is relevant. But there is an objective safeguard against oversensitivity in that the other circumstances of the case must be considered and the classification of the conduct as having the effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, must be reasonable.
Racist language in football should be fairly easy to identify and eradicate. However, the more difficult issue is to address the lack of black managers in English football and removing the barriers to achieve a diverse group of managers that more closely reflects the diverse group of players playing the game today.