Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani was banned for three games and fined £100,000 by the English Football Association, despite a three-man Regulatory Commission finding "no intent on the part of the player to be discriminatory or offensive in any way" while posting a message to a friend on social media.
Uruguay international Cavani is due to serve the final game of his suspension by missing United's FA Cup third round tie against Watford at Old Trafford on Saturday. The 33-year-old was suspended last month for using the phrase "gracias negrito" in response to a message from Pablo Fernandez after scoring a late goal in United's 3-2 win at Southampton on Nov 29.
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Both United and Cavani stressed the FA that the player was being affectionate to his friend rather than using insulting and/or racist phrase and, in nine pages of written reasons published Thursday, the Regulatory Commission confirmed that it sanctioned Cavani despite accepting the player's position.
The commission, which consisted of former Premier League midfielder Gareth Farrelly, former Oxford United striker Marvin Robinson and Richard Smith QC, were told by Professor David Wood, an expert in Latin American studies, that "whilst "negrito" is commonly used in South America to refer to a male who is of colour, someone familiar with South American culture and language could also have understood that in the context of friends it was not used with the intention to be racist, insulting or offensive."
The professor added that English native speakers unfamiliar with South American culture would be likely to take offence to the words used.
The FA submitted that a "follower of English Premier League football would have understandably concluded that the words used were racially offensive."
Cavani was supported by a video statement provided to the Commission by Pablo Fernandez, who stated that his life-long nickname was "negrito" and that he took no offence at all to the posted message.
The Commission was also shown copies of private WhatsApp messages between Mr Fernandez and his friends which illustrated the use of the term "negrito" as being commonplace between them.
Within the written reasons, the Commission concluded that it was satisfied that there was no intent on the part of the player to be discriminatory or offensive in any way and that Cavani wrote his reply in affectionate appreciation of a message from his Uruguayan friend and that it was not designed or intended to be racist or offensive either to his friend or others reading the Instagram post.
But despite their conclusion, the Commission concluded that "taking all relevant matters into account, a suspension from playing of 3 games -- rather than the standard minimum of six games for the offence -- properly marked the gravity of the player's offending."
In addition, the Commission concluded that it was correct to impose a financial penalty (£100,000) on the player.