Jay Rodriguez has called recent months a ‘difficult and strained period’ after an FA charge for racially abusing Brighton defender Gaetan Bong was found ‘not proven’.
Bong accused the West Bromwich Albion striker of racism during the Baggies’ 2-0 win at the Hawthorns on January 13.
The FA had used lip-reading experts to determine what Rodriguez said to Bong when they clashed during the Premier League game, however the association said they found no ‘compelling arguments’ that racism had occurred.
Jay Rodriguez said he was victim of a ‘damaging slur’ after being accused of racist abuse
An allegation of racism against Rodriguez from January 13 was found ‘not proven’ last week
In his evidence, Bong said he was ‘100 per cent certain’ the 28-year-old had said to him: ‘You’re black and you stink.’
Rodriguez, who had a personal FA hearing on Wednesday, insisting he had: ‘Breath f***ing stinks.’
Bong has previously said he was ‘certain of what I heard on the field’, however Rodriguez, speaking publicly on the issue for the first time, released a lengthy statement via his Twitter page calling the accusation ‘a serious and damaging slur’.
He wrote: ‘It has been a difficult and strained period for me and my family because this allegation brought a serious and damaging slur on my character.
‘It has been equally difficult to remain silent throughout the FA process but I do wish to express firstly my relief that I have been exonerated and secondly my support for the fight against racism in whatever form it is expressed.’
Brighton defender Gaetan Bong said Rodriguez abused him during West Brom’s 2-0 victory
Rodriguez said he bares Bong ‘no ill will’ but is ‘disappointed’ that the Cameroon international ‘chose to publicly condemn me’ before the tribunal had finished.
He said: ‘I would like to emphasise, so there can be no doubt, that I did not utter the words of which I was accused. I did not use any language that alluded to race and I can only repeat my view that Gaetan misheard our exchange’.
The one-cap England international thanked those who had given evidence supporting him at the hearing, as well as his West Brom team mates, club staff and fans for their backing ‘during this unpleasant process’, and his family.
Bong had previously said he was ‘very disappointed’ by the verdict, in a statement released after the FA released their verdict.
Rodriguez, who scored the winner at Old Trafford on Sunday, said it had been a ‘difficult period’
He said: ‘I have been in this country for almost three years and this is the first time that such a thing has happened to me.
‘In spite of my disappointment I encourage everyone who may also be subjected to a similar experience to stand up and denounce such acts, even if the chances of obtaining sanctions are likely to be very small.
‘Human rights are universal rights that are not foreign to any culture and they belong to all countries!’
Rodriguez has continued playing while the allegations have been investigated, with West Brom falling to the bottom of the Premier League and close to relegation in a dismal run of form.
The striker did however score the winner at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Sunday – his first game since being cleared – to hand the title to Manchester City.