Goodman: Luis Suarez should face tougher punishment


Meredith Goodman, Columnist

My younger brother once got mad at me, most likely for hogging the television, and bit me. I still vividly remember the teeth marks in my arm. It’s OK, though — I’m pretty sure I bit him back at some point (love you, Matt!).

The fairly bizarre behavior of biting someone in the arm, usually reserved for children, was seen in an English soccer match last week. Luis Suarez, a Uruguayan soccer player for the Liverpool team, bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic while running down the pitch. And when I say “bit,” I mean chomped down on his arm with full force, like something out of a “Twilight” movie.

Apparently, this was not Suarez’s first time biting a fellow player. In 2010, when he was with the Dutch team Ajax, he suddenly bit opposing player Otman Bakkal in the shoulder during a scuffle between teams in the middle of the game. In both incidents, Suarez wasn’t immediately banned during the game. In Chelsea, the referees apparently missed the incident and Suarez continued to play, going on to score the tying goal. In the Ajax game, Suarez was allowed to complete the game, which would end up being his last with the team.

Suarez is a player with a controversial history. He called Manchester United player Patrice Evra a “Negro” and was fined 40,000 pounds (about $60,000) for racial abuse after a game. He also refused to shake Evra’s hand in the first game since the racial incident. He gave the middle finger to Fulham fans in 2011.

After Suarez’s clearly unacceptable physical abuse of another player, Liverpool should have taken harsher action to make an example out of Suarez. He will only miss two weeks worth of wages and 10 games. Although the team managers spoke out against “the bite” after the game, Suarez was allowed to finish the game and the team has no plans of selling the player.

Suarez is a brilliant soccer player, but at some point his antics become distracting and detrimental to the team and English soccer. Liverpool must either take harsher actions against Suarez to ensure this behavior stops or let him go from the team permanently. By not voluntarily pulling Suarez out of the game, Liverpool showed sports fans (well, not a soccer fan) like me that a player’s ability is valued over his conduct and character in English soccer.

Liverpool is only one of many organizations that have allowed players with questionable conduct to complete their games. My first column as a Daily columnist referred to Yunel Escobar, then a Toronto Blue Jays player who wrote a homophobic message in Spanish on his eyeblack during a game. After the game, the Blue Jays’ organization suspended him for three games, required him to attend sensitivity training and donated his salary for those particular games (about $85,000) to gay rights charities. Escobar was still allowed to come out of the locker room with his offensive eyeblack and still played the entire game.

Although referees claimed they did not see the bite and did not hand out a red card to Suarez (which would have automatically suspended him for three games), Liverpool should have taken advantage of the situation and personally benched Suarez. By continuing to allow Suarez to play, Liverpool condoned the player’s immature behavior and did not adequately punish him for it.

Liverpool is not the only organization to blame, however. The Professional Footballers’ Association has the power to suspend players for much longer than two games, even permanently. Although it is offering Suarez anger management classes, it still will not remove him from the Player of the Year watch list. Are conduct and sportsmanship no longer requirements for Player of the Year?

Suarez is one of the top players in Europe and is seen as crucial to the success of Liverpool. But his antics are not worth his incredible playing style, even if he is valued at 35 million euros a year. Liverpool should have commanded maturity and sportsmanship of its players and set an example to all professional soccer organizations by benching Suarez during the game.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this letter, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].