Lionel Messi Accused of Racism by Royston Drenthe
Innocent until proven guilty. That's the longstanding principle in matters like this, but whether or not it will prevail in the case of Royston Drenthe vs. Lionel Messi will become clear in the next few days.
Drenthe has accused Messi, the world's best player and reigning Ballon d'Or winner, of racism.
If he's telling the truth, the ramifications for Messi and Barcelona could be far-reaching. If he's not, Drenthe has stooped just about as low as you can go to seek out attention for himself.
Either way, Drenthe can expect to be besieged by the media in the days and weeks to come.
The Dutch midfielder, who is set to return to Real Madrid after a failed loan spell with Everton this season, claims Messi referred to him in the past as "negro".
It's the same accusation that was leveled at Liverpool's Luis Suarez by Manchester United's Patrice Evra. That case went before an FA disciplinary panel and resulted in Suarez being banned for eight matches and fined £40,000.
Here's what Drenthe told Dutch website NU.nl, with translation by Mirror.co.uk:
"I played against him [Messi] many times and we always have problems with each other.
You know what bothers me so? That tone with which he always says, 'negro, negro'. I understand that 'negro' in South America is very common, but we can not stand it.
Mahamadou Diarra, my team-mate at Real, could explode if 'negro' was aimed at him. The Argentinean Gabriel Heinze and Gonzalo Higuain said it initially on the training ground, but they were stopped.
When Hercules [the team Drenthe spent a year on loan with last season] played Barcelona, during the game I had a small altercation with him [Messi]. He gave me a hand in the match and again said a few times, 'hola negro'."
Thus far there has been no comment from Barcelona, Messi or Real Madrid. We have heard nothing further from Drenthe either.
It may be that nothing more will be said on the matter and, albeit very slowly, the issue goes away.
But with Spanish football fighting a very public battle against racism, the authorities could feel obliged to act. FIFA may even force their hand. The most obvious step would be to reach out to Drenthe and ask him to confirm the allegation.
If he does, we may yet see Messi facing a charge similar to the one against Suarez.
At that point, the reputation of the best footballer on the planet will suffer whatever the outcome. Messi's standing as one of sport's most untarnished role models will be forever undermined, and there will be many who will turn against him.
But, for now, we have a moral obligation to assume innocence on both the parts of Drenthe and Messi.
If Drenthe is telling the truth, his case needs to be heard. Equally, Messi's standing should be in no way affected unless this accusation is proved, and a ruling made.
To those who will argue that it doesn't matter if Messi said it or not, I will say this—while "negro" may very well be an acceptable term in South America, it surely doesn't take long to realize you can't take it with you to Europe.
Ignorance is not a defense in my book. But again, for now, no defense is required.
Source: Bleacher Report