Irish basketball chief Bernard OByrne quits over Raheem Sterling dive jibe

The CEO of Basketball Ireland has stepped down from his role over a Facebook comment referencing Raheem Sterling and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Mr O’Byrne said: “While I am hugely disappointed that this is how my decade with Basketball Ireland has ended, 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.

“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.”

Basketball Ireland chairman Paul McDevitt said: “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.”

Mr O’Byrne had been under increasing pressure in recent days to resign for the now-deleted post, and he had “wholeheartedly” apologised.

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.

The word “f***” was scrawled over a huge mural of Rashford on a wall in his home town of Withington, before being repainted and covered by hundreds of messages of support.

Scores of people at the site of the mural took the knee in protest against racial injustice and in solidarity with the player.

Another of England’s black players, Tyrone Mings, accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of double standards after she condemned the racial targeting of the players.

He said on Twitter: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message [taking a knee] as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.”

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