Rio Ferdinand's 2012 is turning rapidly into an annus horribilis. By the end of the year he may be an ex-England player and on his way out of Old Trafford. All this is rather odd when you consider - bar a couple of fairly minor matters - he has done very little wrong.
He wasn't picked for the European Championships - however it was dressed up as ''footballing reasons'' - because of the difficulties of having Ferdinand and Terry in the same squad. His international career was ended by Roy Hodgson to a group of fans on a tube train. Now, he seems to face the infamous hair dryer of Sir Alex Ferguson.
That isn't to excuse his Choc Ice tweet. It isn't to excuse some of his questionable tweeting around the time of the Terry trial. However, it is odd to think that he is the bad guy in this situation.
Yesterday, Sir Alex Ferguson, threatened to take action against Ferdinand because he refused to wear the Kick It Out campaign t-shirt. He said that Ferdinand had ''let the club down''. It is rumoured that he will be fined, or has been fined, £220,000. This has little to do with racism and rather a lot to do with Ferguson.
On Friday, Ferguson assured the press that all players would wear the t-shirt. My guess is that Ferguson did not speak to Ferdinand on this matter. Therefore, Ferdinand trotting out without a t-shirt on made Ferguson look a little silly and - here's the rub - gave the slightest glimpse that he wasn't in total command of the dressing room. Such insolence is always crushed at Old Trafford.
However, even if Ferguson was more concerned with the Kick It Out campaign than discipline he'd still be wrong. Imagine that this is a point of principle rather than annoyance at looking even more red-faced than normal. He might make the argument that such a campaign works if all of football comes together and acts in the same way. Everyone wears the t-shirt. Football, as a community, makes a statement to the world.
I get that argument - and, at first viewing, rather like the idea of football making a statement together - but I think it falls flat here.
Ferdinand is a man who believes his brother was racially abused by a former England captain and who has just seen the Football Association vindicate that belief by finding Terry guilty. Many in and around the game thought that Terry's punishment was lenient. Add to that, the man abused his brother was selected for the European Championships and that selection made it impossible for Ferdinand to be selected.
Then add that on Saturday morning, Ferdinand would have known that Terry and Cole would have been wearing the same t-shirt. How on Earth would that have felt? It wouldn't have looked to him like football was making a statement. It looks like football going through the motions. Worse, it would have looked like football putting a gloss on an issue. Let's point at those horrible Serbians and tell the world how we take racism seriously. But many in the game - Ferdinand and Roberts to name but two - don't think we are taking racism sufficiently seriously and that shouldn't be glossing over matters. (NB: Indeed, one can make the argument that one man not wearing the t-shirt provokes debate and focus that wouldn't occur if everyone wears it).
And there are legitimate concerns around Kick It Out. That isn't to criticise the campaign. They do a great job - an admirable and humbling job on limited resources - but there is the whiff of a conflict of interest in their work. They are funded by - among others - the Professional Footballers' Association, the Premier League and the Football Association. There are many in the game who think that Kick It Out haven't criticised the FA as vociferously as they might have over the Terry punishment or the Terry selection to the European Championships. Kick It Out are rightly vocal when an England player is abused in Eastern Europe but there are doubts they are quite so loud when an England player is the one doing the abusing.
It is galling that this campaign exists in the glitz and glamour world of football - where money appears to grow on trees and 19-year-olds drive Range Rovers - with a budget of under half a million pounds and five full time staff. With that in mind, if the fine is to levied on Ferdinand then perhaps the most elegant solution would be to give those funds to the Kick It Out campaign. This may seem like kicking Ferdinand when he is down. £220,000 would be a huge windfall for the organisation, would give them more campaigning power, and would make them less obviously reliant on the FA for funds. They may be much more willing to bite the FA's hand if it weren't also the main source of income.
Of course, some cynics have pointed out that Ferdinand's contract is up next summer. There are ongoing doubts about how long he can play on at the highest level of the game. It wouldn't put it past Ferguson to manufacture a row with a player - even one who has been a colossus for Manchester United - to ensure some income in the January window. I hope that isn't the case. It really wouldn't be a fitting end to a glorious Old Trafford career for, in my view, England's finest footballing defender since Bobby Moore.
PS - My initial thoughts on Rio here