Premier League soccer player Andre Gray was left over the last week talking about tweets he published four years ago that bemoan the increasing public profile of gay people and saying they should "burn" and "die." Now the Football Association is bringing charges of homophobia and racism against Gray, after this tweet and another racist tweet from 2014 came to light in the last week.
The tweets came to surface after Gray lashed out at racist fans of his own team, Burnley, a month ago.
Gray's self-defense, and something his friend Joey Barton pointed out in defending his buddy, is that he was young and that was a long time ago. He was 20 years old at the time of the tweet.
"I was at a very different point in my life back then - one that I've worked hard to move on from," Gray said in a statement, according to The Guardian. "I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person.
"I can assure everybody that I am absolutely not homophobic, and as said previously I can only apologise and ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended. Thankfully I am not the guy I was back then and will continue to work hard both on and off the pitch to become a better person."
Barton added in Gray's "defense": "He is 100% not homophobic. One of the nicest lads you could meet." Barton has previously won an award for his outspoken support of LGBT people.
I don't know about being "nice" as a defense. Tony Dungy is apparently the "nicest" guy in the world, but he's one of the most publicly hostile people to the LGBT community in all of sports.
Making matters worse today is the revelation that just two years ago Gray lashed out on Twitter against light-skinned people of color, starting a tweet with "I hate lightys."
Certainly we've all said and done things we didn't mean, or that we later regret. It's just tough to buy that someone who thought gay people should "burn" and "die" four years ago, or who hated people of a certain color two years ago, is somehow now this beacon for equality.
Gray can help "fix" this, of course. The explanation was a good start. He should make phone calls to Stonewall and Football V. Homophobia tomorrow to see how he can help them in their efforts to tackle anti-LGBT bias in soccer and other sports. A cash donation to their work wouldn't hurt.
"While these tweets are of course historic, unfortunately homophobic attitudes and language continue to be an issue in sport, whether that's on the pitch, in the terraces or on social media," Stonewall told the BBC.
"It's extremely important that we work together to kick these attitudes out of sport, and create supportive and inclusive environments that enable everyone to feel accepted without exception."
What action the Football Association will take -- or even can take -- is yet to be seen. We should know more later this week after Gray responds to their charges.