In the news, Federico Macheda became the latest professional footballer to be fined by the authorities for homophobic language on Twitter.  The Italian joined fellow players, Ravel Morrison and Nile Ranger, in being punished by the FA for inappropriate outbursts via the social networking site.

Responding to the decision, Macheda is believed to be unhappy with the size of the fine (£15,000).  Reports suggest that the Manchester United striker (on loan at QPR) will appeal the sum, as it is more than double of that received by Morrison or Ranger, but has accepted the initial charge.  The offence in question was a response to a tweet from the member of the public, saying ‘shhhhh u stupid little gay!’

…indicative of a wider trend…

The case of Macheda is indeed similar to that of Morrison, who was fined for using the word ‘faggot’ and indicative of a wider trend across the internet.  Since the emergence of Twitter as a universal form of communication, footballers have been become increasingly vocal with regards to their personal opinions on everyday matters.  Prominent users include Joey Barton and Rio Ferdinand, whilst the majority of footballers have seen an increased level of dialogue with their supporters.  Many, Micah Richards being a prime example, have closed their accounts in response to abuse from fans.  Others, such as Macheda and Morrison, elect instead to reciprocate any abuse they receive.  As a result, we have seen several cases of deplorable language, duly reprimanded by those in charge.

Footballers are supposed to be role models and the behaviour of a select handful of individuals does much to undermine the image of professionalism upheld by most.  However, the issue in these cases is perhaps not one of genuine homophobia or prejudice; in practice, the biggest worry is simply the thoughtlessness of the offenders.  Macheda’s use of the word ‘gay’ does not necessarily mean that he is homophobic, but rather points to a poor choice of vocabulary, unnecessary level of aggression and inappropriate lack of self-discipline.  The authorities are completely correct to charge him, but were he to replace the word ‘gay’ with the word ‘idiot’, he may have escaped any fine at all.

…staunch stance taken by the FA…

Of course, whether the abuse is homophobic or not, it is still unacceptable; the staunch stance taken by the FA sends out the right message that unprofessionalism of this kind should not be tolerated in any form.  Nonetheless, no conclusions should be jumped to that Morrison, Ranger or Macheda are malicious young men. 

Indeed, what must be focused on to reduce any re-occurrences of such kind is the ability to handle the media and the public.  These young players clearly have little idea of how to conduct themselves online and, as such, should be trained to do so by their clubs.  Indeed, to avoid the same problem in the future, the conundrum of Twitter and the professional footballer should be addressed in one way and one way only: teach all footballers basic PR. After all, these athletes are often our heroes and idols, and our view of them shouldn’t be tainted by immature and repulsive outbursts.

Image courtesy of Psychology Today


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An aspiring sports journalist - I've seen the light, I don't want superficial riches. I want to be happy and report on sport for a living. Intern with and Sports Editor at the Beaver. Write for a few sites, including this one :) so follow me on Twitter @TimothyPoole to see more!

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