Footballers are at it again. Mistaking banter for the offensive. This time it is young starlet Suso, who branded fellow Spanish and Liverpool teammate Jose Enrique “Gay” on Twitter after having his teeth whitened.
He thankfully covered up the initial swear word (F***), but using a term such as “Gay” opens him up to a round of ridicule and criticisms from campaign groups involved in sport.
He rightly deleted the tweet rather rapidly, after probably being advised by Liverpool’s communication team, but his apparently homophobic comment has landed him in hot water with the FA, and they fined him £10,000. Rightly so.
Suso later apologised (probably after being advised) on his Twitter page, writing: “I’m very sorry if anyone has been offended by my comments about the photo of my team-mate Jose Enrique.
“It was only a joke between the two of us. I realise that my words were unfortunate and it was not my intention to offend anyone. I apologise again if anyone was offended.”
Enrique also took to the social networking site: “Is amazing how FA can fine my friend Suso Fernandez for a banter thing. Was just a joke!” he wrote.
This goes back to the argument about social media and impacts on corporate reputation and on the reputation of football. Liverpool chiefs and FA regulators pledged their continued support to several anti-discrimination campaigns in the aftermath, who lobbyists suggesting that the money goes towards the cause.
The Reds became the first Premier League club to sign up for Gay Pride, and are the leading supporters of the Kick Homophobia Out of Football campaign.
The FA said in a statement: “Following an independent regulatory commission hearing on Monday, Liverpool’s Jesús Fernández Sáez (Suso) has been fined £10,000 and warned as to his future conduct for a comment posted on Twitter. The charge, which the player admitted and requested a paper hearing, was that he acted in a way which was improper and/or brought the game into disrepute in that the comment was posted on his Twitter account and included a reference to a person’s sexual orientation and/or disability.”
What does this mean for social media use by employees of professional clubs? Clearly an education process needs to be undertaken sooner rather than later, with the clear assumption that some players (like Suso) are just kids and they need some guidance.
Suso is just the latest in a long line of Premier League footballers to cause controversy with their postings online, with Rio Ferdinand , Ashley Cole and Emmanuel Frimpong all charged in recent months for their comments.
There is a clear sign that many players do not know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. Words – culturally and socially – have different meanings and after Gordon Taylor’s promise to include cultural lessons for foreign footballers to understand society, perhaps another one is needed on how to control social media output and what postings are acceptable in the wider context of communication.
A more robust social media policy by clubs would help. A clearer definition of words, too, would help the cause to ensure when players ‘tweet’ they produce great content and a real insight into their lives, not just a sense of petulance.