Footballers and social media – the Andre Gray affair

Written by Danny Ward

Love them or hate them, social media platforms are now an intrinsic part of our daily lives. Our digital footprint, whether it be imparted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, is viewed by people the world over. Gone are the days when you could make a post without it being seen by others. And usage of social media is not purely limited to the general public. An increasing number of footballers are taking to the Web to post daily updates and, if they are brave enough, personal opinions. Amongst those with the biggest Twitter followings in the footballing world are – quite inevitably – the popular La Liga trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar. On the whole, their posts appear to be fairly mundane; a quick glance at Ronaldo’s page, for example, shows me pictures of him training or in action for Real Madrid.

However, it is those footballers who are a little more ‘under the radar’ who are often at the biggest risk of falling into the trap of being caught for any non-PC opinions they air. With the most recent example of Burnley striker Andre Gray, we can see that even derogatory posts from years ago can be picked up on and used as ammunition against an individual. Following his team’s 2-0 victory over Liverpool, in which Gray put himself in the spotlight by notching his first Premier League goal, fans scrolled through his entire Twitter page to find the anti-gay tweet originating from 2012. With an ongoing four game ban in place, the player’s current employer has now been punished despite the fact that when he made his immoral posts he had been playing for Hinckley United.

Andre Gray tweet

Whether you believe this to be the right or wrong decision, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Burnley have been unfairly affected for what was a personal opinion made at a time when he had nothing to do with the club. And would these tweets even have been discovered had Gray still been playing Championship football for Burnley this season, rather than being involved in high-profile games against the likes of Liverpool? Perhaps not.

This particular case also brings up the question of how far back in a players social media history we should be delving. As an employer interviewing a candidate for a job would tend to check up on their potential future employees prior to handing them the role, perhaps football clubs should now start to roll out stringent checks before they sign a new recruit, wherein all social media platforms are scoured for any potential problematic opinions. This would surely save any complications further down the line.

What are your opinions on this issue? Was the punishment fair on player and club? Let me know in the comments!

featured image by Burnley Football Club