Two pages before the conclusion of the Football Association's written reasons for banning John Terry for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand it is suggested that when calling an opponent a "f***** black c***" the Chelsea captain was guilty of "perhaps an almost unconscious stream of invective … without thinking through the consequences of what he was about to say."
A full year on from a moment in English football that is now assuming the status of an ominous watershed, the full consequences are remarkably, depressingly still unfolding, just as the universe continues to unspool around us following the Big Bang, background radiation infiltrating everything.
This unedifying case has already spawned a court case, an FA disciplinary commission, a four-game ban, over £350,000 in amassed fines, the resignation of an England manager, the abrupt international retirement of a former captain, quite possibly the exile of his former partner at the heart of the national defence, death threats directed at the victim, tasteless chanting directed at him too, tweets about a "choc ice" and a "bunch of t***s", the undermining of the Respect campaign in the form of missed handshakes and a rebellion against Kick It Out in the form of discarded T-shirts.
Just three words. Assembled and arranged in arguably the most offensive combination imaginable, yet just three words, and still the acrimony expands. If we are to believe the newspapers then Manchester United could take the financial penalties well past £500,000 by fining Rio Ferdinand for directly going against his manager's wishes and being the only Manchester United player to refuse to wear the Kick It Out T-shirt this weekend - though far from the only Premier League player to do so of course.
One report on Sunday even suggested that — with Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane all able to testify how long an Old Trafford career lasts once Sir Alex Ferguson perceives he has been wronged — Ferdinand's position at United itself is in some jeopardy. If he is punished by United, then it will entirely be in keeping with how this whole saga has developed — the Ferdinand family suffering inexcusable collateral damage despite being the victims of the piece.
Ferguson conducted himself largely impeccably when dealing with the Suarez-Evra case and has previously been a supporter of Ferdinand's high-profile stance on the issue of racism, but publicly attacking the defender for making a stand prior to the game against Stoke on Saturday — calling him an "embarrassment" no less, and claiming he would be "dealt with" as if he were a misbehaving child — gave him a T-shirt-related faux pas to match that of his old Glaswegian sparring partner Kenny Dalglish. Not quite as toxic and embarrassing as those garments in support of Luis Suarez, guilty of multiple instances of racial abuse, of course, but damaging nonetheless.
Lest we forget, Ferdinand was not the only Premier League player who saw fit to externalise his frustration with the perceived leniency of punishments for racist behaviour by neglecting to wear a Kick It Out shirt. Jason Roberts carried through with his promise to do the same and was joined by Reading team-mates Jem Karacan, Jobi McAnuff and Garath McCleary. Joleon Lescott has not worn one in years and did not do so again prior to Manchester City's game against West Brom, while Anton Ferdinand was just one of a collection of players who decided against donning the shirt before QPR's draw with Everton.
Yet it is only his elder brother who has been singled out for criticism. While Brian McDermott set the model for how to deal with the situation when saying he had "total respect" for Roberts and backed him "100 per cent", by stark contrast Ferguson's fit of anger reflected poorly on him as a manager and by extension Manchester United as a club. Suppressing freedom of expression and individuality of thought is never a good look.
Though his outburst has been interpreted as a reaction to a direct challenge to his authority — and there must be some truth in that given the way Ferguson likes to exert absolute control and has made doing so his trademark in 26 years at Old Trafford — it is clear there is more to it. After all, on Friday he saw fit to talk condescendingly of Roberts's plan, explaining how "there shouldn't be sheep wandering off … I don't know if he is trying to put himself on a different pedestal from everyone."
Such staunch support for Kick It Out is in theory laudable, but in reality Ferguson is in absolutely no position whatsoever to lecture black players and instruct them to blindly line up behind each other in support of a cause that many have clearly lost faith in. The fact many black players appear to have abandoned Kick It Out is a matter of great concern and deserves a much more serious and considered response than heavy-handed punishment.
Ferdinand has been a great friend to the anti-racism movement in football, speaking powerfully on the subject in the past, and has earned the right to take whatever stance he likes on an emotive subject that affects him on a very personal level.
Though Early Doors would concede here that the target of Roberts's and Ferdinand's ire might be misdirected somewhat — after all, though it does take a large chunk of its funding from the FA, Kick It Out is little more than a lobby group, with absolutely no power to demand punishments or control FA policy on the matter, and as such it is those in charge of the governing body, and those at UEFA who consistently fail to treat racism with the gravity it deserves, who are surely more legitimate targets for protest if recent punishments are deemed insufficient - no player should be coerced into endorsing an organisation they do not value.
The consequences of the weekend's protests appear to be two-fold, and contradictory. On the one hand, the boycott has generated far more publicity for Kick It Out than a normal week of action would have done, with the issue of racism, and debates over the adequacy of four-match bans and other punishments, at the forefront of most discussions about the weekend's developments in the Premier League.
But surely there is also a danger that as well as trivialising the issue - where the bitter Evra-Suarez row came to be obscured somewhat by the completely farcical handshake row between the two, now T-shirts have come to cloud the Ferdinand-Terry debate - Kick It Out may have been fatally wounded by the sight of black players shunning the leading anti-racism initiative. The issue of racism in English football is too important for either of these two trends to continue.
Still, no one, not even Ferguson, has the right to criticise Ferdinand for making a very personal choice after a year in which his brother was called a "f****** black c***", subjected to death threats and taunted by shameless Chelsea fans; his family put through the ordeal of a court case, finally getting a belated apology from Chelsea at the weekend; and his own international career controversially whipped away from him for rather undefined "footballing reasons".
If after all that trauma the upshot is that Ferdinand is fined £220,000 for making an entirely legitimate political statement, and his Old Trafford career is placed in some doubt, then it will only be the latest depressing twist to emerge from the bottomless pit of despair that is this whole sorry saga. Another unwitting victim of those three words that continue to poison English football.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you want an example of a centre-half playing where you have got to head it, kick it, cover people, get in the right position and then have the calmness to play, he was your example. I come from a famous football club, West Ham, and that was like watching Bobby Moore. He was terrific." - High praise indeed from Alan Pardew as he discusses Fabricio Coloccini's performance in the Wear-Tyne derby against Sunderland on Sunday.
FOREIGN VIEW: "He asked me about Bayern. I think the philosophy of how that club is run pleases him. He is a very good coach, who would fit that team perfectly. He would give the German mentality some flair." - Luca Toni opens up the possibility that a former team-mate at Brescia - Pep Guardiola no less - is possibly interested in taking charge of German giants Bayern Munich when he ends his sabbatical from the game.
COMING UP: We have extensive highlights from all of the weekend's Premier League games available for your enjoyment, as well as a condensed look at all the goals. Jan Molby picks out a theme from the weekend for us at 1pm as we also bring you the Premier League Team of the Week, the European Team of the Week and the latest update from France with Pitchside Europe.