|(Andre Gray in pic) It might be ok to be a homophobe when nobody knows you,|
is different when you have fans that pay money to see you play
The Burnley striker Andre Gray has apologized after homophobic tweets in which he appeared to condone killing gay people were shared on social media.
One of the messages, written in 2012 when Gray played for non-league Hinckley United, read: . That tweet, and others containing similar terms, were deleted on Saturday, soon after they started re-circulating online.
Tweet from Gray on
“Is it me or are there gays everywhere?
jan 9 2012 1:31am
The tweets emerged a month after Gray accused two Burnley fans of shouting racist abuse, calling the pair “ignorant prats” who “still live in the stone ages”.
Responding to the backlash online, the 25-year-old – who scored Burnley’s second goal against Liverpool – issued a statement, writing: “First I want to offer a sincere and unreserved apology to anybody I may have offended in relation to these tweets. The tweets were posted four years ago when I was a completely different person to the man I am now.
“I was at a very different point in my life back then – one that I’ve worked hard to move on from … I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person.”
He added: “I realise I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I’ve worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time. To clarify, I do not hold the beliefs written in those tweets whatsoever.
“I can assure everybody that I am absolutely not homophobic, and as said previously I can only apologise and ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended. Thankfully I am not the guy I was back then and will continue to work hard both on and off the pitch to become a better person.”
Responding to the original messages, the campaign group Stonewall told the BBC: “While these tweets are of course historic, unfortunately homophobic attitudes and language continue to be an issue in sport, whether that’s on the pitch, in the terraces or on social media.
“It’s extremely important that we work together to kick these attitudes out of sport and create supportive and inclusive environments that enable everyone to feel accepted without exception.”
The Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, however, backed Gray against the criticism, tweeting: “I know @AndreGray7 as well as anyone. And he is 100% not homophobic. One of the nicest lads you could meet. Who hasn’t said dumb things when they were young? … He should be held up as an example to kids from troubled backgrounds.”
Burnley later issued a statement along similar lines, saying: “The club would like to make it clear we do not condone any discriminatory behavior by any employee. The club also fully supports the FA’s Football v Homophobia campaign.
“However, as Andre has made clear in a statement on his personal account, these are social posts from four years ago, and in this time he has completely transformed his life. The player has also apologised and denied he is, in any way, shape or form homophobic. Burnley Football Club will make no further statement on this matter.”
In June the Coventry City defender Chris Stokes was given a one-game ban and fined by the Football Association for tweeting a homophobic term. Stokes also posted an apology online, calling his decision to send the message “a brainless moment from me … I’m really disappointed in myself for using that term. I’m not homophobic at all.”