Football club forced to apologise for tweet that failed to predict the future

Posted on December 3, 2018

 

As was noted in a recent blog by our Technical Director Darren, there are plenty of ways in which social media posts from years ago can come back to bite people, and many employers are now reviewing applicants’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts before offering them a job.

The world of football, which is always in the spotlight, is no stranger to this, and tweets raked up from the past have been known to put footballers in difficult situations. In 2016, striker Andre Gray was enjoying good form with Burnley in the Premier League, but it came to light that he had tweeted homophobic content in 2012 as an unknown non-league player. He ended up banned for four matches for something he did four years earlier.

When Phil Neville was given the position of head coach for the England women’s team earlier this year, it was brought to the FA’s attention that some of the former Manchester United defender’s historic tweets about women had been somewhat disparaging and arguably sexist. Sports anti-discrimination group Kick It Out called on the FA to charge Neville, but he escaped any punishment.

There appear to be people out there who love to dig through people’s tweets and drag old skeletons out of the closet, and now League Two club Port Vale seem to have fallen victim to one of these muck-rakers. However, while Gray and Neville could be accused of being stupid and inconsiderate, the Potteries club have been forced to defend themselves against something taken entirely out of context.

Mischief-makers have been sharing a genuine tweet from Port Vale’s Twitter account that contains an image of the club’s chairman standing beside a helicopter. Directed at the Leicester City account, it reads:

“Hi @OfficialFOXES. Our chairman is better than your chairman.”

In light of Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death in a helicopter crash in October, it’s easy to see how some could have considered the tweet to be highly offensive and inappropriate. Those who did, however, should have checked its date – June 25th, 2015. More than three years before the Thai businessman’s tragic accident.

What people were sharing was actually just a friendly piece of banter about Srivaddhanaprabha’s well-known tendency to travel to and from Leicester games by helicopter, but they were presenting it as if it had been tweeted since the accident, thereby suggesting it was a taunt.

This really is the ugliest side of social media. First of all, it’s sad that someone would delve through Port Vale’s historic tweets, find something from three years ago and deliberately present it out of context in a way that would be upsetting to Leicester City, Port Vale and anyone associated with those who died in the helicopter incident.

Secondly, it shows that there are still too many people who don’t question what they see on social media. They simply see something and react to it, then share it among their friends who do the same thing. It’s alarmingly easy to completely ignore context on platforms like Twitter.

Port Vale’s response has been a professional one in that they have explained the tweet and apologised for ‘any upset’. Really though, they have done nothing wrong, and the apology should come from whoever thought it would be a laugh to present the tweet in a post-October 27th context, and those who were too quick to form a judgment on the tweet without proper investigation.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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