Oxford City striker Lee Steele has had his contract terminated by the club, as the result of a homophobic message he posted on twitter regarding gay rugby star Gareth Thomas. The tweet was submitted after Thomas entered the Celebrity Big Brother house, and read, ‘I wouldnt fancy the bed next to Gareth Thomas #padlockedarsehole.’.
The tweet immediately sparked condemnation and subsequently raised the issue of homophobia in football, which – despite the efforts of the Football Association and The Justin Campaign, which was named in honour of Justin Fashanu, the only out gay footballer to play in the UK – still appears to be a problem within the sport. Neil Smyth – a former producer of Sky’s Soccer AM show tweeted, ‘And they wonder why more pro sportsmen don’t come out?’. Oxford Pride chairman Cheryl Briggs added her view on the matter, saying, ‘It enforces the stereotype that all gay men are predators and will just go after anybody. It’s just ignorance. If the remarks were made in the street, it would be treated as an illegal offence.’
Shortly after the row erupted, Oxford City chairman, Brian Cox, said, ‘If this remark has been made by Lee, the club certainly distances itself from it. We are looking into it and the board will meet as soon as possible to discuss it further.’
Following a meeting on tuesday evening, the club released an official statement announcing that Steele’s contract had been termimnated, ‘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.’.
The FA has made no official comment on the matter.