Liverpool have been accused by equality campaigners of 'critically undermining' the fight against racism in football with their support for Luis Suarez.
The Uruguay striker was banned for eight games for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during the two sides' Barclays Premier League clash at Anfield in October. Though the club decided against an appeal, they have repeatedly made clear their dissatisfaction with the guilty verdict.
Suarez compounded the problem by refusing to shake Evra's hand ahead of the return fixture on February 11, and an open letter from local and national black leaders has called on the club and player to apologise to Evra.
Both Liverpool and Suarez apologised for the handshake incident and Suarez issued a public apology five days after the Football Association released their written judgement on the case, though he has never apologised directly to Evra in a public forum.
The letter, displayed in full on the National Black Police Association (NBPA) website, read: "LFC actions, in vehemently rejecting the findings of the FA inquiry, their public displays of support for a player found guilty of racist abuse and his subsequent refusal to shake the hand of Evra at a recent game is completely unacceptable.
"These actions we believe could be considered as inciting racial intolerance.
"Whilst the subsequent apologies for the failure to engage with the traditions of a pre-game handshake are to be welcomed, there remains deep concern about LFC's absolute refusal to accept the findings of the FA's investigation.
"As such these apologies fail to meet the test of genuine remorse and understanding. This is further negated by LFC's failure to apologise for racism either through the club or Suarez.
"Neither have LFC recognised or acknowledged the consequent damage to race relations resulting from their actions and recognised by many people of all races across the country. As a result efforts to combat racism in football and the wider society in general have been critically undermined."
The open letter is signed by members of the Liverpool Black Leadership Forum, Merseyside TUC, North West United Against Facism, the Society of Black Lawyers and the NBPA, among others.