Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Before Israel Folau: 5 other offensive people in sport who put their foot in it

Posted on 12 April 2019 by Megan Dymmock-Morgan

In light of Israel Folau’s homophobic tweets, which could lead him to lose his contract for Rugby Australia, we take a look at other occasions that sports stars put their foot straight in it.

Eric Bristow

The five-time darts world champion and MBE holder, Eric Bristow lost his lucrative job at Sky Sports after multiple ignorant tweets about football sex abuse and the launch of The Offside Trust. The Offside Trust was founded by Steve Walters and former professional golfer Chris Unsworth, whose stories of child sexual abuse have inspired hundreds of people to speak out for the first time. In 2016, Bristow degraded football players calling them “wimps” for not standing up for themselves. Steve Walters responded on Twitter, “Disgusted with Eric Bristows remarks tonight #stoneagementality.”

Bristow apologised and defended his remarks on Good Morning Britain saying, “I want youngsters now to go out and complain straight away. There’s no point complaining 30 years later,” explaining that he wanted to encourage children to report sexual abuse. Bristow passed away on 5th April 2018.

Richard Keys and Andy Gray

The infamous Sky Sports presenters faced scrutiny after their microphones recorded a sexist conversation about lineswoman, Sian Massey-Ellis, at a Liverpool v Wolves match in 2011. The pair conversed:

Richard Keys: Well, somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.

Andy Gray: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Female linesman. Forget what I said – they probably don’t know the offside rule.

RK: Course they don’t.

AG: Why is there a female linesman? Somebody’s fucked up big.

RK: I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today. Kenny [Dalglish, Liverpool’s manager] will go potty. This is not the first time. Didn’t we have one before?

AG: Yeah.

RK: Wendy Toms.

AG: Wendy Toms, something like that. She was fucking hopeless as well.

RK: [exasperated groan]

AG: [inaudible]

RK: No, no, it’s got to be done, it’s good. The game’s gone mad. See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.

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The backlash forced their employers, Sky to apologise. Sky said, “The comments reported are not acceptable. They were not made on air but we have spoken to Richard and Andy and told them our views. They have apologised and expressed their regret.” Like Bristow, the pair lost their jobs and are now exiled – sorry, plying their respective trades, out in Qatar.

Glenn Hoddle

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Former England manager lost his job in 1999 after his arrogant, Biblically driven comments about disabled people. He was quoted saying, “You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. What you sow, you have to reap.” Hoddle defended his comments by saying they were “misinterpreted”, but was still sacked by the FA, even though he admitted his insensitivity and apologised for his “serious error of judgment”.  

Sepp Blatter

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This former FIFA president was not only involved in a crooked FIFA bribery scandal, but he also voiced sexist opinions in 2004. His promotion of women’s football amounted to, “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men — such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” On June 2nd 2015, Blatter resigned from his position, due to the ongoing corruption scandal including wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

John Inverdale

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Sports presenter and commentator, John Inverdale, faced over 700 viewer complaints following his sexist comment about France’s Marion Bartoli at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. Inverdale said that Bartoli was “never going to be a looker”, which caused Inverdale to be replaced by Clare Balding. Inverdale blamed his illness and said, “I’m not making excuses here, just trying to explain. And I was going to say that in your early years, you’re dealt a set of cards. And actually I was going to use the phrase ‘physical attributes’ and then – and remember, you’re thinking all this in a split second – I thought, ‘No, don’t say that’. And then I said something far worse.” Bartoli was forgiving after Inverdale personally apologised at the Wimbledon champions’ dinner, she said, “Don’t worry about that, what do you think of my heels?”

Featured image/Sepp Blatter/WikiMedia Commons