Footballers, Twitter and 'banter'

Posted by Marc Duffy

Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty ImagesNewcastle defender Steven Taylor has apologised for posting a picture on Twitter that sparked a racism storm.

'Lad' culture added to dressing room 'banter' plus the freedom to instantly share these things with an audience of thousands rarely leads to anything positive.

Newcastle centre half Steven Taylor was the latest footballer to cause a storm of controversy on Twitter when an inappropriate picture he tweeted to teammates Massadio Haidara, Papiss Cisse, Moussa Sissoko and Vurnon Anita was widely criticised as being racist.

- Report: Taylor apologises for tweet

Haidara quickly stepped in to defend Taylor, tweeting:

'@MassadioHaidara: @27StevenTaylor Is Just Bander with Papiss, Moussa, Vurn' and Me. He joke with me 2 min before'

This didn't halt the outcry from fans of Newcastle United and other clubs -- and Taylor tweeted an apology soon afterwards:

'@27StevenTaylor: Apologies if my tweet offended anybody.'

The head of the 'Show Racism the Red Card' organisation, Ged Grebby, summed up the situation well:

"Steven Taylor's behaviour is foolish on his part and while he may have meant it as a joke he clearly does not know how offensive those images are to some people.

"I don't think Steven is racist. He has been a big supporter of our campaign for years, but he has to understand that things like this are offensive.

"It is a joke between team-mates, but it was an ill-advised one and he is right to apologise for the offence he may have caused people who saw it. We had a big backlash of people offended by the images that Steven tweeted.

"Footballers should always be aware that images and comments that they don't mean to be offensive, can offend people."

He added: "It is the same sort of crude racial stereotyping that is seized upon by the English Defence League and other far-right organisations and it can be very hurtful to those who are on the receiving end."

This was incredibly silly of Taylor -- even more so when you consider the recent media fall-out from the England camp after Roy Hodgson's innocent NASA analogy.

It seems that all parties involved agree that this was an unfortunate and inappropriate joke. Taylor should know better and he might find himself fined or banned for it.

Not too long ago the FA warned all clubs and players that fines and bans would be served to those who were deemed to communicate inappropriately through Social Media.

Players have been punished too. Federico Macheda was fined 15,000 pounds for homophobic tweets. Rio Ferdinand was fined 45,000 pounds for retweeting a comment regarding John Terry's racism trial. Emmanuel Frimpong was fined 6,000 pounds for a slur against a Spurs fan and found controversy again by tweeting "lol I wanna laugh.....sometimes I wish I was white and English #realtalk" after he wasn't selected for Arsenal's Capital One Cup tie with Chelsea.

These are just a few examples -- there are plenty more.

Whether or not clubs should completely ban their players from using Twitter is a widely debated point. I'm sure Chairmen and managers would love to do this but there would be a strong rejection of a total ban -- a potential move that has been described as 'semi-Orwellian'. PFA Chief Gordon Taylor discussed this point back in 2011.

If players are to carry on being allowed the freedom to tweet, more clubs need to offer some Social Media guidelines and rules.

This is not the first time a Newcastle player has courted controversy through Twitter. Former Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton has no fewer than 2.3 million followers on the network -- and he is famed for his controversial postings. He was fined two weeks' wages when he was still a Newcastle player.

Clubs need to make it perfectly clear to their players that a lot of what they see as 'banter' is simply not acceptable to many. Hopefully Taylor has learned this lesson.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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