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Blackpool defender Marvin Ekpiteta is being investigated by the Football Association over near-decade-old homophobic Twitter posts – despite having been forgiven for them by gay team-mate Jake Daniels.
Ekpiteta became the latest player to face action over his historic social-media activity after comments he made aged 17 emerged in the wake of Daniels this week becoming the first current professional male player in Britain to come out publicly.
The investigation was also launched despite Ekpiteta deleting the tweets and issuing a lengthy apology in which he proclaimed they in no way reflected the views he now held.
Daniels, who is 17 himself, wrote in response to his team-mate: “What you said 10 years ago at 17 years old doesn’t define the man you are today. I am proud to be your team-mate and to be part of the Blackpool family – we are all moving football forwards together.”
Confirming an investigation had been launched, an FA spokesperson said: “We are aware of the comments made on social media and will be investigating the matter.”
Ekpiteta’s deleted posts included one showing three clapping emojis in support of the news that Nigeria had outlawed gay marriage, whilst another criticised the number of gay characters in TV soap Hollyoaks.
Under current guidelines, homophobic posts carry a minimum sanction of a six-match ban, although Ekpiteta’s comments will be assessed under more lenient rules in place when they were made in 2012 and 2013.
The defender said in a statement on Tuesday night: “I want to wholeheartedly apologise for the offensive and completely inappropriate language I used and for the sentiments I expressed. As a footballer, and in the years spent in work before I became a professional footballer, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a wide and diverse range of people. Throughout this period, I have developed and grown as a person.
“Yesterday, I was proud of Jake and all involved at Blackpool FC for what is a hugely positive moment for football as a whole. I am embarrassed by the comments I made as a 17-year-old, nearly a decade ago, which do not in any way reflect the values I hold now or the beliefs I have as a person or as a team-mate.
“Football needs to be a place where everyone can feel free to be true to themselves, and I am upset that the comments I previously made suggest otherwise. I take full responsibility for these posts, and I am sorry.”
Earlier this season, Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola was punished over a decade-old homophobic tweet sent when he was just 14.
Bola was given a warning as to his future conduct, ordered to attend an education programme, and to pay the costs of an independent regulatory commission set up to rule on the matter.
The case raised major questions about the wisdom of the FA charging players over social media posts made when they were children.
Meanwhile, Patrick Vieira will speak to Cheikhou Kouyate over the Crystal Palace midfielder’s apparent backing of former Aston Villa and Everton player Idrissa Gueye’s alleged refusal to wear rainbow colours in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
Watford’s Ismaila Sarr was also facing being spoken to by his club over his own public show of support for his and Kouyate’s Senegal team-mate, who missed Paris Saint-Germain’s Ligue 1 game at Montpellier on Saturday after the colours were imprinted on his club’s shirt numbers.
Kouyate had posted a picture of himself alongside Gueye on Instagram, with a caption hailing the latter as “a real man”.
Sarr posted a picture of him and Gueye accompanied by three heart emojis and the caption “100%”.
Gueye’s stance has been supported by prominent politicians in Senegal, including president Macky Sall, who wrote on Twitter that Muslim beliefs must be respected.