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Basketball Ireland chief quits over ‘Black Dives Matter’ social media post

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Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling

PA

Raheem Sterling

The chief executive of Basketball Ireland is stepping down from his role after posting a controversial comment online referencing England footballer Raheem Sterling.

Bernard O'Byrne, a former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, wrote "Black Dives Matter" on a link to a BBC report on England's Euro 2020 semi-final win against Denmark, during which Raheem Sterling won a penalty.

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

However, in a statement on Tuesday evening, Basketball Ireland said Mr O’Byrne would be stepping down from his role and retiring.

The comment from Mr O’Bryne last week prompted a member of Basketball Ireland’s diversity and inclusion committee to resign their position.

In a statement, Mr O’Byrne said he was “disappointed” at how his time with the organisation has ended and he apologised.

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“I understand that stepping down is in the best interests of the sport. I am deeply apologetic over the hurt caused by my remark and I am fully cognisant of the struggles with discrimination that many people are having to deal with in day-to-day life,” he said.

“My comment was an off-the-cuff, extremely ill-judged attempt at humour based on wordplay only, that was never intended to be racially insensitive or make light of organisations which have done so much to help raise awareness of inclusion and discrimination.

“I wish the Basketball Ireland community the very best for the future and hope they continue the impressive work and achievements that I have had the honour to assist with during the last 10 years.”

His resignation comes after three other black players, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who all missed penalties in England's Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy, were targeted with racist abuse on social media after the game.

Basketball Ireland chairman, Paul McDevitt, added: “I am very disappointed that Bernard is retiring under these circumstances. We know that the basketball community and beyond has felt particularly let down over the last few days and we will continue to listen to and address any concerns that are raised.

“Basketball Ireland takes a zero tolerance stance on any form of discrimination, and diversity and inclusion are key pillars in our sport.

“Bernard’s comment on social media was unacceptable. It has subsequently cast him in an unfavourable light, which is very unfortunate as over the last decade he has been a driving force within the basketball community in Ireland in addressing bullying and negative attitudes regarding gender, sexuality and race.

“His brief lapse in judgement does not reflect the person I know, nor Basketball Ireland as an organisation.”


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