English football club Oxford City has dismissed a player over an anti-gay message he posted to Twitter about former rugby player Gareth Thomas.
Footballer Lee Steele was left out of a game over the weekend following the incident, and the club has now confirmed that Steele has been let go. In a statement the club highlighted that Steele’s conduct was not in line with the club’s ethos.
The club said its officials had met to discuss the comment last night and posted a short statement on the club website this morning.
It said it had issued the following statement to the FA: “The Oxford City board have decided to release Lee Steele in view of his recent comment via social media which is considered seriously contrary to the ethos of the club.”
Steele, commenting on Gareth Thomas’ appearance as a housemate on the British version of Celebrity Big Brother, posted to Twitter on Thursday of last week:
“I wouldn’t fancy the bed next to Gareth Thomas #padlockeda**ehole.”
The comment was then removed and Steele’s Twitter feed fell silent.
The Justin Campaign, named after openly gay player Justin Fashanu who tragically took his own life due in part to the homophobic treatment that practically ended his career, released a statement commending the club on its swift and decisive action:
While it is never pleasing to see someone lose a position in a club or company, we fully applaud the club’s decision to terminate the player’s contract.
For far too long homophobic comments like the ones Steele made have been defended using the erroneous argument that such remarks as simply harmless “banter”¯. However, we no longer accept racist “banter”, and likewise, we must never accept homophobic “banter”¯. These kind of comments, in which being gay or bisexual is used as joke, have immense power in dissuading members of the LGBT community from either playing or watching football.
Oxford City’s brave decision shows us that things are, slowly, moving in the right direction and that football is starting to take homophobia, biphobia and transphobia seriously.
Thomas, a former professional rugby player who played rugby league for the Crusaders RL in the Super League and rugby union for the Cardiff Blues and his home nation Wales, came out in December 2009.
He became known to the world in 2010 as the then only out professional male athlete in a sports team. Others have since come out including footballer Anton Hysen.
Thomas is still participating in the Big Brother show and is apparently unaware of the incident.
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