Footballer Lee Steele Fired for Anti-Gay Tweet About Gareth Thomas


On Tuesday I reported on Oxford City footballer Lee Steele's homophobic tweet directed at rugby player Gareth Thomas, who is now a cast member on the UK's Celebrity Big Brother.

SteeleTweeted Steele: “I wouldn’t fancy the bed next to Gareth Thomas #padlockeda**ehole”.

Steele has now been sacked by his team, which released this statement:

The Oxford City board have decided to release Lee Steele in view of his recent comment via social media which is considered seriously contrary to the ethos of the club.

The BBC reports:

Oxford City manager Mike Ford said: "On this occasion Lee's had to pay for his error of judgement."

Mr Ford said calling the player to tell him he was sacked had been the toughest thing he had ever done in football but he felt that the Southern-Premier League club had made the right decision.

He added: "He's made a homophobic comment, that doesn't necessarily mean he's homophobic."

The former England rugby union international Ben Cohen has set up a foundation to combat homophobia and bullying. Speaking to BBC Oxford earlier this week, he said: "If you are a sportsman you're a role model and people look up to you no matter what division you're in." But he stopped short of calling for Mr Steele to be sacked, saying it should have been a lesson learnt.


  1. Steve says

    I wish sports teams in the U.S. would take this hard-line approach, rather than accepting weak apologies written by the athletes’ press agents. Good for them!

  2. ColinATL says

    I don’t know, I think this was an over-reaction. My guess is that this guy either wasn’t very well liked or wasn’t performing, and this tweet gave his club an excuse to sack him. No facts, just my thinking…

  3. says

    Don’t you just want to raise your fist and shout “Yeah!”?

    Well played Oxford City Board.

    Altho this comment seems incredibly foolish: “He’s made a homophobic comment, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s homophobic.” Duh…?

  4. MichaelJ says

    I admit to knowing nothing about Lee Steele or the specific situation, but I disagree that a hard-line approach is always the best. Certainly if Steele has repeatedly made homophobic comments or has had a history of homophobic behavior — if the tweet is characteristic of past comments or behavior — he should be fired.
    But if this is some isolated comment that is out of character for Steele, I would think public criticism — by the league, by fellow players and by the public — coupled with some sort of permanent probabtion would be a more effective in combating homophobia. It also would be fairer to the player, who should be given a chance to offer a sincere apology (and I don’t mean the sort of weak-ass apology which Steve rightly dismisses in the initial comment to his thread) and the opportunity to demonstrate through future actions and words that the apology is sincere and that a lesson has been learned.

  5. MichaelJ says

    I agree that simply calling anyone who makes a homophobic comment homophobic is wrong; it’s simplistic at best and not very useful. It’s like lumping everyone whoever made a racially prejudicial comment (which would include most of us, including myself) into one big group of “racists.” There is quite a difference between the homophobia of someone who expresses personal discomfort with homosexuals (even if it is expressed as offensively as Steele did) and the homophobia of someone who continually tries to harm gay people, whether it be through words on the campaign trail or with acts of violence outside of gay bars.

  6. Caliban says

    I suspect there’s more to this story. Would they have sacked a star player? I doubt it. For whatever reason, Steele was expendable before this event ever happened.

  7. Hollywood, CA says

    BAHAHAHAHA! I hope that bigotry was worth it, Mr. Steele. Clearly, you ain’t *hit, or your team would never have given you up so easily. Now you can go find another job to pay for your butt padlocks, or maybe throw on a burka so no gay guys look at you and get the wrong idea… since you’re CLEARLY giving off a “Power Bottom” vibe… right?

  8. DanSwon says

    Total overreaction! I can imagine exactly how this was meant and i don’t find it homophobic at all. I think you’d have to understand British lad culture to understand how this was said. A telling off would do, and then an apology via twitter. Having said that, how stupid are these public figures that they continue to make stupid remarks on social networking sites without thinking it might get them into trouble?

  9. Mary says

    To me the most effective response to what this man said would be “Mr. Steele, is there a purpose to your remark?. I mean, what were you trying to achieve with it? If you can answer this question, we won’t complain about what you said.?”

  10. Jersey says

    I love how anti-gay sentiments are coming to be treated by society like racist or anti-semitic attitudes. If the guy had made a remark about a black person or a Jewish person there would be no question about firing him.

  11. Djeip says

    @Danswon – British lad culture is much like lad culture everywhere. He may have been joking. To his mates, it might not have got much reaction, they may have even laughed at it. But this wasn’t something he said to a familiar circle of friends, it’s something he blasted for the world to see.

    Language matters, and public derision of people because they’re different, and thus considered to be easy targets, isn’t okay. Steele clearly thought this was an appropriate, throw away comment to make. It’s because he and people like him believe that comments like this are acceptable that there is such a significant problem.

    No one forced this to come out of his twitter. Homophobia has been a rampant problem in European sport, especially football. Steele knew this, and should have been more responsible in his comments. If there aren’t real consequences to bigotry, when will it stop?

  12. Redebbm says

    Why is he so afraid of Gareth Thomas? Looks like steele doesn’t have a firm hold on his sexuality, maybe he should be addressing that instead of spitting out homophobia on his twitter page.

    For the record i’d love to be in the same bed as gareth! this footballer is crazy.

  13. Fenrox says

    I think the only check that needs to be made is this one:

    Has the rule been made aware to people? This is important because you definitely used to be able to say homophobic stuff without incident, so it is important to really be sure that everyone knows.

    If they know, then do it, fire them. If they kinda knew then reprimand, if one person was reprimanded or fired, all others now know and can not claim naivete.

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