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Roberts' protest 'could spark conversations'

Reading's Jason Roberts (left) without his One Game One Community T-Shirt with team-mate Kaspars Gorkks at Anfield. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

FA chairman and Kick It Out ambassador Clarke Carlisle hopes the decision of some players not to wear anti-racism t-shirts will prompt discussions rather than punishments.

Several players, including Reading striker Jason Roberts, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton, who plays for QPR, declined to wear the Kick It Out t-shirts while warming up for their respective Barclays Premier League matches, apparently unhappy with what they consider a lack of progress.

Rio Ferdinand's decision brought strong criticism from United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who promised the player would be "dealt with".

On Friday, Ferguson had publicly criticised Roberts' stated intention to snub the t-shirt and promised all of his players would wear them.

"We would not want to see Rio Ferdinand punished," Carlisle told Press Association Sport. "As I said of the handshake saga, you cannot coerce any man against his will and to do so would be the complete opposite of what the campaign is for.

"(Reading manager) Brian McDermott and (Newcastle manager) Alan Pardew said they had good conversations with their players to understand why (they did not wear the t-shirt) and they respect them in that.

"Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out in his own interview he did not know why Jason Robertsor any other player would not want to wear the t-shirt, so I hope that conversation takes place in the next couple of days."

Roberts carried out his vow not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt in the warm-up at Anfield in protest at what he perceives to be a lack of action by the organisation in combating racism in football.

While the rest of his team-mates - and all their Liverpool opponents except goalkeeper Brad Jones - donned the tops for the pre-match drills the 34-year-old went without, although Gareth McCleary and Jem Karacan removed theirs soon after entering the field.

After high-profile incidents involving Reds striker Luis Suarez - banned for eight matches - and Chelsea's John Terry - suspended for four games - in the last year, Roberts was particularly unhappy with the latter punishment.

"The four-match ban was, for me, not a heavy enough sanction for what happened," Roberts said in the week.

"I'm totally committed to kicking racism out of football but when there's a movement I feel represents the issue in the way that speaks for me and my colleagues, then I will happily support it.

"I think people feel let down by what used to be called 'Let's Kick Racism Out of Football'.

"People don't feel like they have been strong enough."

Meanwhile at Old Trafford, Rio Ferdinand also chose to ignore Kick it Out's anti-racism message at the start of Manchester United's pre-match warm-up to their encounter with Stoke.

Whilst all his outfield team-mates wore the black 'one game, one community' T-shirts as agreed, Ferdinand sported a bright red United track suit top.

Ferdinand eventually took his training top off to reveal he was wearing a United training shirt, with the DHL sponsors logo.

It represents an obvious snub to the anti-racism message, and directly contradicts Sir Alex Ferguson's stance on the matter yesterday when the United boss was asked what he thought of Roberts' protest.

"Everyone should be united, with all the players in the country wearing the Kick it Out warm-up tops," Ferguson had said.

"I don't know what point he (Roberts) is trying to make.

"I don't know if he is trying to put himself on a different pedestal from everyone. But he really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing it."