Head of Basketball Ireland apologises over ‘Black Dives Matter’ post

Board of organisation meeting following Facebook comment by Bernard O’Byrne

  Raheem Sterling  falls to  the ground, resulting in the awarding of a penalty during the Euro 2020 semi-final  between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium, Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP via Getty Images

Raheem Sterling falls to the ground, resulting in the awarding of a penalty during the Euro 2020 semi-final between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium, Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP via Getty Images

 

The board of Basketball Ireland is meeting to discuss a controversial social media post by its chief executive Bernard O’Byrne.

Mr O’Byrne, a former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) wrote “Black Dives Matter” under a BBC article on Facebook following England’s Euro 2020 victory over Denmark.

The comment was in reference to a controversial penalty awarded to the black player Raheem Sterling which led to England’s win.

Mr O’Byrne, who has led Basketball Ireland since 2011, later removed the post and apologised in a brief statement via the organisation’s website.

The post prompted an online backlash while it is understood members of the public have also made direct contact with the organisation.

When contacted by The Irish Times, he declined to comment and directed queries to Basketball Ireland.

In a statement on its website, he said: “My choice of words commenting on a penalty incident were not thought out. It was an error of judgment and I wholeheartedly apologise for the comments.”

Basketball Ireland also stressed its “ongoing commitment to inclusion and basketball’s diverse community”.

A spokesman for the sporting organisation said its board had convened on Friday morning to discuss the matter and a further statement is expected.

The controversy has drawn a significant response. Hillary Nets stood down from Basketball Ireland’s diversity and inclusion committee on foot of Mr O’Byrne’s comments and said there must be consequences.

“After everything that people have gone through in terms of trying to be included into sport and just looking at how diverse our sport actually is, it was an insensitive comment to be put up,” he told RTE Radio on Friday as the board was meeting.

He said despite Mr O’Byrne’s assertion that his comments were not thought out, they had nevertheless been posted online.

“I think a more public statement from himself [is needed]; there has to be some sort of consequence,” he said, adding that people felt “betrayed”.

The comment was also criticised by members of the public on social media. One post said: “Afro-Irish players who have represented Ireland home and abroad deserve better. This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated from a senior member of the executive team.”

Another said: “Imagine thinking firstly that it was funny and secondly that he wouldn’t instantly alienate so many from the organisation.”

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