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Is Luis Suarez a victim? Brendan Rodgers thinks so

Apr 25, 2013, 1:35 PM EDT

Britain Soccer Premier League AP

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists that Luis Suarez has been victimized by the 10 match ban handed down by the FA and that “the punishment has been made against the man and not the incident.”

Since Suarez’ now infamous bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during last Sunday’s 2-2 draw, the Uruguayan was charged with violent conduct and handed a 10 match ban by an independent disciplinary panel. Liverpool, who have still not received the full report, have until Friday afternoon to appeal the decision.

In the meantime, Brendan Rodgers stepped forward to discuss the incident. “It is the severity of the ban that has hurt most,” said Rodgers. “That is something we are bitterly disappointed with – not so much the ban because everyone has seen it and Luis was very open and honest to know it was wrong.

“You can only compare it with similar incidents we’ve had. There have been two similar incidents both in 2006. One player [Tottenham's Jermain Defoe] received no ban and has continued to be picked by the FA for the England team. The other player [defender Sean Hessey, who was charged for biting in a game between Chester City and Stockport County in 2006] received a five-game ban. So when Luis receives a 10-game ban it’s hard to understand.

“I honestly believe the punishment has been made against the man and not the incident.”

While it may be tough to grasp the logic behind Rodgers’ defense of Suarez, it’s hardly surprising that the manager has chosen to stand behind the Uruguayan. This is what Brendan Rodgers does, at least when it comes to his star player. Whether he’d do the same for Martin Skrtel or Jose Enrique remains to be seen.

Rodgers had Suarez’ back throughout both of the player’s prior incidents this season. When Suarez was repeatedly accused of diving (and exacerbated those accusations by celebrating his goal against Everton with a dive in front of David Moyes), Rodgers had his back. When Suarez handled the ball prior to scoring Liverpool’s winner in the FA Cup third round tie at Mansfield, Rodgers defended him.

In truth, it’s exactly what any good manager should do for his player, so long as it’s justified. In the context of diving and handball accusations, it was big of Rodgers to step up and defend the Uruguayan when the rest of the world was out to get him. But when it comes to the biting incident, Rodgers’ defense of Suarez is questionable and his assertion that the player is a victim is borderline asinine.

The claim that the “punishment has been made against the man and not the incident” evidences Rodgers’ misunderstanding of basic principles of justice. In any court system in the world, prior incidents are always factored in when determining punishment. You simply cannot consider punishment for an incident without understanding the man behind the incident.

In a criminal context, multiple violations always results in an extended sentence. Even in many a civil context, liability is easier to prove for repeat offenders. For example, in the context of a dog bite (which feels appropriate when discussing Suarez) a plaintiff in the U.S. must prove negligence of the owner so long as no prior bite has been proven. However, if the owner has been previously found liable for his dog biting someone, a plaintiff merely need to prove strict liability – a much lower and easier threshold to meet than negligence. In other words, history matters.

So was this a punishment made against the man? Absolutely. And rightfully so.

In fact, the 10 match ban seems quite fair when considering Suarez’ bite history. When the striker bit the collarbone of PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal in 2010, the Dutch Football Federation handed him a seven match ban. Logically, this punishment provided the FA with the floor for the potential ban. Anything below that number would have made a mockery of the FA while anything over 10 matches would have seemed egregious given the chomp didn’t cause actual injury to Ivanovic.

For all the criticism the FA has received this season, they got this incident right. One hopes that, in time, Brendan Rodgers will arrive at this understanding.

  1. dfstell - Apr 25, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Yeah, but in this case, “the man” is a serial biter, FA-convicted racist, multiple handball cheat and horrible diver.

    • randomhookup - Apr 25, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      Sure, but other that *that* he’s a peach.

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 26, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      The only prior bad act here which has probative value is the bite at Ajax.

  2. unclemosesgreen - Apr 26, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    Should be reduced to 8 games on appeal for my money.

    The biggest part of this is that Rogers is setting the stage for Suarez to stay at Liverpool next season. There have already been rumors aplenty that Suarez wanted to go to a Champions’ League club. Now, he may feel obligated to stay at Anfield another year and has further damaged his own transfer value.

  3. mox19380 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    a Reds fan speaking here… I understand that Rodgers has to stand up for his players but I don’t think anyone is going to say that 10-games isn’t appropriate considering he is a repeat violation offender. Between the alleged racist comments and the biting incident while with Ajax there is no reason why the league shouldn’t start laying some serious penalties on Suarley

  4. scoocha - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Great article, MP. Great comments on here as well. I’m kind of shocked actually.

    You laid the case out perfectly, received 7 games before, that increases to 10 via a second offense. Plain and simple.
    Basically, you can add Brendan Rodgers to the scumbag list for defending this prick. It’s obvious that BR is a cheater and loves those who cheat. I expect nothing less from a Fenway Sports Group owned enterprise.

  5. bellerophon30 - Apr 26, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    For the sake of Liverpool, a team that I couldn’t dislike more, I hope that Luis Suarez appreciates all the support that they give him. No player could ask for more from their team, I know that.

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