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Both sets of players left the pitch during Tuesday's Champions League clash after Istanbul assistant manager Pierre Webo claimed fourth official Sebastian Coltescu aimed a racist remark at him.
According to The Independent, Coltescu used the word "negru" (meaning black in Romanian) when identifying Webo. His reply was: "Why did you say negro?" Istanbul substitute Demba Ba was widely praised for challenging the official, saying: "Why, when you mention a black guy, do you have to say this black guy?"
Richards, while backing Ba and the players who walked off, cautioned against labelling the official racist, however.
"It's a difficult one, to be honest. Demba Ba was within his rights to say what he said," said Richards on CBS Sports. "I think that's the whole problem in society, we're trying to label people as different.
"But, playing devil's advocate, it's difficult, because if we're in a room like we are now, and someone says 'the black person' or 'the black one', then I wouldn't take offence to that. So without knowing the context in which the word was used, it's very difficult to jump on either bandwagon."
Richards further added: "In Romania... the word 'negru' means black. It's difficult. The problem with racism, when a racial moment happens, we don't really deal with it, and then we have something that might have been or might not have been, it is two different things. So we can't assume that just because he said that he was being racist.
"Was he being ignorant? Probably. Racist? I'm not sure, and that's just off the evidence I've been given."
A balanced take from Richards, which has provoked a divided opinion online.
While some have backed the former Manchester City and England defender, others have said he just hasn't grasped the situation.
"Micah is 100% right here. The ref could've used better language, but calling someone black isn't racist," said one fan.
Another pointed out: "I don't go around calling people by their skin colour so I don't expect that in return."
Micah is 100% right here. The ref could've used better language, but calling someone black isn't racist. Just unfortunate that the word for black in his language sounds very similar to the n word.- Dre (@TheDreMos) December 10, 2020
Of course without knowing that it would sound racist. https://t.co/zvJxoT7Ba1
Micah is making some nuanced points. I think it was clumsy and unprofessional language, but not racist. It's no different to referring to someone as 'the fat one', 'the short one' or 'the bald one' if the individual has a certain characteristic that stands out in a group.- Andrew (@stattodium) December 9, 2020
I don't go around calling people by their skin colour so I don't expect that in return- Kenstone (@DaRealKenstone) December 9, 2020
Wow...very disappointing from @MicahRichards here. Identifying others by their skin color is wrong, plain and simple. Context :clap:doesn't :clap:matter. Just don't do it period. Demba has his name on his jersey, the official should have used it. https://t.co/grhL8O5kzk- The Worst Generation :100: (@M_Amdelotti) December 9, 2020
I'm black and I agree to this. The context is very important- 6ene & 9teen (@ElReyNino) December 8, 2020
He just backtracked at the end of the show. Must have collected his thoughts or seen the reaction to his earlier words but he definitely walked these comments back- Fellainious Monk (@313dennis) December 8, 2020
PSG eventually won the match, which was restarted on Wednesday, 5-1 and topped Group H while Istanbul Basaksehir exited the Champions League.
Image credit: CBS Sports/PA Sport
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