Today Andre Gray was banned for 4 games and fined £25,000 for racist and homophobic tweets he posted 4 years ago whilst he was playing for Hinckley.
The F.A. statement reads:
"Burnley forward Andre Gray has been suspended for four matches commencing with immediate effect for misconduct in respect of social media comments. It was alleged that six postings on his Twitter account were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute contrary to Rule E3(1). It was further alleged that these breaches of Rule E3(1) included a reference to sexual orientation and/or gender and/or colour and/or race contrary to Rule E3(2).
The player admitted to three of the breaches, and denied the remaining three were in breach of FA Rules. Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing yesterday [22 September 2016], the remaining three breaches were found proven.
The player was also fined £25,000, warned as to his future conduct and ordered to attend an FA education course."
There are a number of issues with this decision today but first I want to state clearly that what he did was clearly wrong, disgusting and punishable. However, banning Andre Gray for comments made four years ago sets a very, very dangerous precedent.
Where does the F.A stop now? What about the 5000+ re-tweets or 1,767 likes which is again making a statement?
Is there now a cold case department which is going to look into every tweet, post, or comment made by a league player over the last 4 years? I am sure Andre Gary is going to wish there was, otherwise he's going to be very sore and singled out.
The other issue is the offence was made 4 years ago. At that time he was playing for Hinckley on probably a few hundred a week. Surely the fine has to reflect this? Otherwise if this escalation is acceptable in the penalty, most kids having not handed their homework in 4 years ago are going to be facing a jail sentence today! Your 3 points you think you got away with 4 years ago is going to come rebounding back on you swiftly and without sympathy! Joking apart the decision to prosecute on todays laws and salaries is in my view unlawful by the F.A.
This is a police matter and should be dealt with by the police at the time. If it was unnoticed then it should be a warning today. they will need to investigate the circumstances of the tweets at the time, they also need to reflect on the re-tweets and likes which again warrants action of some kind if not a warning? Also, Twitter has a responsibility, in allowing tweets like this and the effect on his followers which may be of a much younger generation.
Why should Burnley suffer or its fans for that matter, by a player, being seemingly made an example, of something that happened 4 years ago?
His tweets were vile and disgusting in todays community, and as he acknowledges in his statement he is a very different person today.
So where does the F.A go from here? If it has set the example and wishes to leave it at that then there are going to be quite a few players breathing a sigh of relief. But what next, when the Sun or Daily Star drag up some skeletons from the past, I can bet wholeheartedly that the archives of Twitter have never before been more searched than they are now!