John Terry’s career as Chelsea and England captain is over if he is found guilty of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand.
Indeed, it would be hard for him to look many of his Chelsea team-mates in the face again.
There is no coming back from such a damaging case.
Ask ex-manager Ron Atkinson, whose lucrative TV contract was cancelled after he uttered a racially offensive remark into what he thought was a dead microphone.
Once a media darling, he has rarely been seen or heard again since.
To be labelled a racist is to become a social outcast.
Terry’s stormy past does not help him with many fans, who are prepared to believe the worst.
And he confirms he did use the offensive phrase in question – but only in a defensive way as part of a response, as in: ‘Did you think I called you a... ?’
Ferdinand says he heard nothing but was alerted later by messages on social websites and YouTube footage, which is being pounced on by part-time lip readers.
But if Terry shouted such offensive words, which players on that pitch have come forward to tell the FA inquiry they heard them?
Until that happens, fairness dictates that Terry cannot be ‘convicted’.
He cannot be hung by the FA on internet gossip, suppositions, and inconclusive video evidence in that it does not reveal the context.
Not when a verdict of ‘guilty’ has such dire consequences for him.
If the case against Terry can be properly corroborated and is proved, he deserves all that is coming to him.
The same goes for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.
He denies using a racial insult 10 times to Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
But if we are going to label these men as ‘racists’, it has to be on rock solid and indisputable evidence.