Rio Ferdinand fined for Ashley Cole 'choc ice' tweet
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand has been found guilty of improper conduct and fined £45,000 by the Football Association for comments on Twitter.
An independent commission concluded Ferdinand's response to a tweet describing Chelsea's Ashley Cole as a "choc ice" did not make him a racist.
But it was ruled the centre-half had brought the game into disrepute.
"The commission found that the breach included a reference to ethnic origin, colour or race," read an FA statement.
Ferdinand was also warned as to his future conduct. Manchester United have decided not to appeal against the decision.
The United defender tweeted: "I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic hahahahahaha!!" in response to a message from @carltonEbanks which stated: "Looks like Ashley Cole's going to be their choc ice. Then again he's always been a sell out. Shame on him."
The term relates to the black and white nature of a choc ice and can imply someone is being black on the outside and white on the inside.
The tweet appeared on Ferdinand's timeline after Chelsea and England left-back Cole appeared in court as a defence witness for team-mate John Terry, who was cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand's younger brother, Anton, in a game against QPR on 23 October last year.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "They (the FA) want to close the door on this kind of thing.
"What surprises me is that other players have been twittering for ages and have never been challenged by the FA.
"His (Ferdinand's) status in the game has caused that and who he plays for is maybe another issue."
In bringing their charge, the FA made it clear they did not feel Ferdinand was a racist, rather that he had acted improperly.
In a statement outlining their decision, the commission said: "The Football Association clearly states that this is not an allegation that Mr Ferdinand is a racist, concedes that he is not a racist but contends that his conduct in endorsing @carltonEbanks tweet in a public forum is a term of abuse and brought the game into disrepute."
Ferdinand conceded the tweet was insulting, although he insisted in the hearing he was not expressing a racist view.
The commission's report continued: "Mr Ferdinand stated the words 'choc ice' was a reference to race... but also means the person is fake.
"He accepted that the words of the tweet were insulting and conceded that the term could only be used when referring to a black or mixed race person and not a person with white skin.
"Mr Ferdinand therefore admitted that the term 'choc ice' referred to Mr Cole's colour, ethnic origin or race.
"The charge is proven and the breach of FA Rule E3 was aggravated by reference to Mr Cole's colour, ethnic origin or race."
The hearing did accept there were mitigating factors taken into consideration before they decided on their punishment.
"A number of factors have to be considered in determining the penalty," the statement read.
"This is Mr Ferdinand's first offence. He has a clear disciplinary record. He was the Football Association's 'Poster boy' and role model to other professional footballers in the use of Twitter and has a track record in fronting anti-racism campaigns in football.
"It was in response to a tweet rather than an original tweet."
A representative for Cole released a statement soon after Ferdinand's tweet to emphasis he still viewed the Manchester United defender as a friend.
"Ashley Cole wishes to make it clear that he and Rio Ferdinand are good friends and he has no intention of making any sort of complaint," it read.
"Ashley appreciates that Tweeting is so quick it often results in offhand and stray comments."
Since Ferdinand's tweet Terry has been charged with improper conduct by the FA for the alleged comments he made to Anton Ferdinand, a charge he has vowed to contest.
Terry, 31, is alleged to have used "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour" during the game.