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Oct 20, 2012

Anti-racism shirts draw protests

Reading striker Jason Roberts carried out his vow not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt in the warm-up at Anfield in protest at what he perceives to be a lack of action by the organization in combating racism in football, and Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand also chose to ignore the anti-racism message.

While the rest of Roberts' teammates -- and all their Liverpool opponents except goalkeeper Brad Jones -- donned the tops for the pre-match drills the 34-year-old went without, although Garath McCleary and Jem Karacan removed theirs soon after entering the field.

After high-profile incidents involving Reds striker Luis Suarez -- banned for eight matches -- and Chelsea's John Terry -- suspended for four games -- in the last year, Roberts was particularly unhappy with the latter punishment.

"The four-match ban was, for me, not a heavy enough sanction for what happened," Roberts said this week. "I'm totally committed to kicking racism out of football but when there's a movement I feel represents the issue in the way that speaks for me and my colleagues, then I will happily support it.

"I think people feel let down by what used to be called 'Let's Kick Racism Out of Football'. People don't feel like they have been strong enough."

Meanwhile at Old Trafford, Ferdinand also chose to ignore Kick it Out's anti-racism message at the start of United's prematch warm-up to the encounter with Stoke. While all his outfield teammates wore the black 'one game, one community' T-shirts as agreed, Ferdinand sported a bright red United track suit top.

Ferdinand eventually took his training top off to reveal he was wearing a United training shirt, with the DHL sponsors logo.

Ferdinand's brother Anton was on the receiving end of Terry's racial abuse.

It represents an obvious snub to the anti-racism message, and directly contradicts Sir Alex Ferguson's stance on the matter yesterday when the United boss was asked what he thought of Roberts' protest.

"Everyone should be united, with all the players in the country wearing the Kick it Out warm-up tops," Ferguson had said. "I don't know what point (Roberts) is trying to make. I don't know if he is trying to put himself on a different pedestal from everyone. But he really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing it."

Ferguson hinted that Ferdinand will be the subject of internal disciplinary action.

"I am disappointed," Ferguson said to United's in-house TV channel MUTV. "I said yesterday that the players would be wearing it in support of the PFA and that every player should adhere to it. And he goes and lets us down. We will deal with it, don't worry."

While Ferguson condemned Ferdinand, Reading boss Brian McDermott stood firmly behind Roberts.

"Jason has had a very strong view of it and I respect Jason's view," McDermott told Sky Sports News. "It was important to him what he did today. I 100 percent back him."

Swansea and Wigan players did not warm up in the Kick It Out anti-racism t-shirts at the Liberty Stadium. Several players on both sides did not wish to wear the T-shirts, according to a Press Association report.

As a result their teammates decided, rather than isolate their colleagues, that no players would wear the shirts.

At Upton Park, two West Ham players warmed up without the Kick It Out shirts, but the Hammers later confirmed that the reason was only because they ran out of shirts. West Ham substitute Leo Chambers did not wear one and neither did Matthias Fanimo, who prepared with the Hammers team despite not being part of the matchday squad.

At The Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion players were wearing Albion Foundation T-shirts and a Manchester City spokesman confirmed that next weekend's home game against Swansea would be the champions' designated Kick It Out day.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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