LONDON (AP) – Chelsea captain John Terry pointed to his work helping African footballers and their charities as evidence he isn’t prejudiced during police interviews heard at his racism trial on Tuesday.
The England defender lost the national team captaincy over accusations he racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last October.
In a statement to police heard in court on the second day of the trial, Terry insisted that the language he used was “responsive and not accusatory.” The 31-year-old center back says he was repeating the term to Ferdinand to counter what he believed he was being accused of.
Defending his character to police, Terry highlighted his work helping to integrate a “multicultural group of players” at Chelsea and his long-standing support for the charity work of black former teammates Marcel Desailly and Didier Drogba.
“My commitment to the projects demonstrates I’m not racist,” Terry told police.
Terry, who was in the dock for a second day, faces a maximum fine of $3,900 if he becomes the first top soccer player in England convicted of racial abuse during a game.
Terry also repeatedly defended his character during disciplinary interviews last October with the English Football Association, which were heard at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
“I have been called a lot of things in my career and off the pitch but being racist is not one I am prepared to take at all,” he said before being charged with a racially aggravated public order offense.
“I’m not having anyone, let alone Anton, think that about me or anyone else,” he added. “That’s not my character … I was taken aback by that. I have never been accused of that.”
The court heard for the first time that it was an off-duty police officer who initially complained to police about Terry’s comments, which were posted on YouTube within 30 minutes of the globally televised match ending.
After the prosecution closed its case, Terry’s legal team said there is no “prima facie case” against the player.
Lawyer George Carter-Stephenson said Ferdinand “is not a reliable witness,” claiming his evidence on Monday on the build-up to the confrontation with Terry was “misleading.”
Ferdinand’s reliability “is further damaged,” Carter-Stephenson said, by the fact he identified a YouTube clip of the incident as being from the live TV feed when it was from footage that wasn’t broadcast.
Carter-Stephenson said the video is “interpreted and incomplete,” adding that evidence from lip-reading experts is inconclusive.
“This case should go no further, there is insufficient evidence,” he said.
But prosecutor Duncan Penny said it was “plainly and inherently unlikely” Terry would decide to repeat the alleged racist phrase with no surprise or incredulity.
Chief magistrate Howard Riddle rejected an application for the case to be dismissed.
The verdict in the trial, which is expected to last five days, will be decided by Riddle instead of a jury.