I'm slowly beginning to get bored of Mario Balotelli. And that slightly upsets me, because we find ourselves at a time when football is seriously lacking characters who offer any kind of personality or charm off the pitch and posses a swag that keeps me engaged beyond the wondrous things they do at 3pm on a Saturday. He's gradually falling into that forgotten hole in my mind of people I previously found entertaining like Jose Mourinho, but he at least still retains my admiration for the level at which he excels in doing the job he's paid to do.
The same cannot be said for Balotelli. The forthcoming charge for his latest (but to be fair, first since returning to England) act of dumbness, has to match that of whatever Wigan Athletic Owner, Dave Whelan receives - if not worse. That hurts me to say, but in the interest of fairness he must be punished and punished hard and this is why. There's a lot of great work being done for more diversity in football as well as a more diverse media. The 'I' word dominates the national and political debate, with foreigners the apparent source of all that's wrong with this country, a time for understanding and tolerance for those who are different can begin in sport. We all seem to agree that a change in attitudes is the key to any kind of progression. Phasing people like Dave Whelan out of football is part of that process after his comments appear to have dropped his mask and exposed his attitudes towards people different to himself. But if we deem his comments offensive and unacceptable then surely Balotelli posting a picture of Super Mario with the caption 'Jumps like a black man, grabs money like a Jew' are equally worthy of condemning and punishment - with arguably harsher consequences due to the same offence being committed just a week earlier. His defence was 'I was trying be anti racist with humour'. Now if we take him at his word it's a flawed defence on two counts. Firstly, because I've lived in Italy and while this may be seen as a light hearted way of addressing a problem in his homeland, this isn't Italy and what is acceptable in tone and language in one country isn't necessarily the same in another (the Suarez-Evra affair shows this too). Secondly I don't know if you can attack a subject as serious as this with humour. Would you do the same with rape or paedophilia?
He took the post down immediately and followed it up with an apology and message saying 'My Mum is Jewish so all of u shut up please'. Now that may be true and a person can never know for sure if a person is racist unless they say so themselves. But the worse defence you can offer when accused of being racist, is 'But my mate Leroy at work is black' or 'My daughter has got a half-Indian baby'. I feel uncomfortable with it then and I feel the same when that's the first response from the Liverpool striker.
As a high profile black man playing Premier League Football we know he's been subjected to a torrent of racist abuse and it's for that reason I feel really harsh in saying what I'm about to. He must be punished and punished severely for the post. These comments are unhelpful and serve no purpose to people who are black or Jewish and they are most certainly not funny. If we're serious about stopping these things being said in the public domain and Whelan is grilled and pillared for his comments then Mario has to be made an example of too and seen as a deterrent for the next footballer thinking about posting such things. We can't have one rule for one and another for others. Racist comments must be punished - even if they're from black people. It seems perverse to punish Mario Balotelli, as he's a victim of constant racial abuse, but it's time to be brutal and show no mercy in fighting this fight.