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SPOTY row: Tyson Fury trolls targeted Greg Rutherford's family

By Lesley Houston

Published 18/12/2015

Tyson Fury and Greg Rutherford (pictured) have been at loggerheads over next week’s SPOTY awards
Tyson Fury and Greg Rutherford (pictured) have been at loggerheads over next week’s SPOTY awards
Greg Rutherford and partner Susie Verrill

The Olympic gold medallist who pulled out of this year's Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) awards over the Tyson Fury scandal has revealed he and his family were bullied on social media because of the row.

World champion long jumper Greg Rutherford was eventually persuaded by the BBC to keep his name on the shortlist, but his criticism of Fury came at a price.

Rutherford said he was subjected to "harsh" abuse after speaking out over the contest, which takes place in Belfast on Sunday.

Fury was a late addition to the SPOTY shortlist, and the inclusion of the world heavyweight boxing champ was overshadowed by statements he made about women, homosexuality and abortion.

The 27-year-old said a woman's best place was "on her back", made disparaging remarks about gay people, and compared the legalisation of abortion to paedophilia.

Afterwards Rutherford told the BBC he was unhappy with the "outdated, derogatory comments from a fellow nominee" and had reservations about "sharing a stage with somebody with views strongly opposed" to his.

BBC chiefs persuaded the athlete, who called Fury a bigot, to remain in the running, but that failed to prevent a Twitter backlash that also saw his girlfriend Susie Verrill subjected to abuse.

"If I have seen a wrong or someone is doing wrong, I will make a stand for that, and maybe some people thought that was the wrong thing," Rutherford said. "The Twitter abuse my family and I have received since has been a bit harsh."

He also told how he intended to keep his distance from the boxer at the SSE Arena event.

"I probably won't speak to him," Rutherford said. "I have made my stance clear, and a big part of it, which I said to the BBC privately, is that I would not go for a drink or meet up with a person with views like that. I have no desire to mix with people who have strong views that I feel put down people that possibly do not always have the strongest voice."

Verrill recently revealed that she had fought Greg's corner on Twitter after a troll told her: "I hope your head's ripped off your shoulders in front of your kid."

"And then the fun flooded in," she wrote in Standard Issue magazine. "I was utterly shocked, not at the aggression itself, but that it was their only line of attack - that their immediate counter-argument was to fire relentless suggestions of sexual punishment at me.

"It's laughable on reflection that thanks to Greg trying to argue against the suggestion that a woman is reduced to her talents in the kitchen or bedroom, I was now being told to do exactly that.

"I'm not sure what I expected, but I certainly didn't think quite so many men would shout so loudly with such outdated views."

A petition calling for world heavyweight champion Fury's removal from the SPOTY shortlist of 12 has now passed 130,000 signatures.

Fury, who has a Traveller background, has since defended his controversial comments, saying he should not be made out to be "some evil person" who hates gay people.

"I don't hate anybody," he added. "The only thing I have for people is love, and that's what the world needs to realise. What a man does in his own home and with his own people are his own problems."

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