Jeremy Finlayson fumbled the ball with a gay slur during a match. Now he's expressing deep regret. | Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Jeremy Finlayson made a big mistake.

In the heat of the moment, he may have not even realized how big of a mistake he made. Often, people in the public’s eye don’t immediately know the magnitude of what they’ve done. Then a bunch of people on social media and in the news media tell them, and they become very aware.

Finlayson has gotten the message. Since then, he’s had a three-game ban imposed on him by the league. And it was seemingly “only” three games because he expressed remorse.

“Every day I wish I could take it all back,” he said to The Age. “It’s hard to talk about even now, and I don’t know who I’ve hurt or how many people. I have family members who are gay and friends who are gay.

“I’ve reached out to them all to try to explain I just said something so wrong in the heat of the moment.”

Expressing sincere regret is a powerful tool in society. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made some very public mistakes. And I’ve been in the position of wishing I could grab some words and yank them back.

Admitting a mistake is an important part of the step. Finlayson has not been shy about his mistake.

Finlayson’s coach made an interesting observation, also reported by The Age:

“He’s made his mistake, he’s admitted his fault, and he knows he has a lot of work to do to get better. I’m not talking about for the team, or on behalf of the team, but for himself. He doesn’t want to be remembered for this.”

Here’s a tough part about advocating for LGBTQ athletes and opposing homophobia and homophobic language: Forgiveness. Moving on.

There are a lot of people who don’t deserve that. People like NBC’s NFL commentator Tony Dungy don’t deserve any “benefit of the doubt.” He has been a homophobe publicly for nearly 20 years. He continues to share nonsense about gay and trans people. Barring a full mea culpa by Dungy and an explanation from him that he was wrong, he deserves no benefit of the doubt.

Then you have athletes like Tim Hardaway. The NBA superstar said “I hate gay people” in 2007. Since then, he has done incredible work to reconcile that.

Hardaway deserves every benefit of the doubt. No question.

Finlayson falls with Hardaway. He deserves a second chance and the ability to put this behind him.

By every measure, he has taken steps to reconcile what he did. By every measure, he regrets his language and knows the impact it can have on gay and bi men.

When these issues happen, people wonder whether he’s sorry he used the slur, or whether he’s sorry he got caught.

Having seen these a bunch of times, it seems Finlayson is sorry he used the slur in the first place. It was inappropriate, and he knows it. The media coverage simply compounded the problem.

Finlayson’s return to the pitch shouldn’t be an issue for anyone. There are so many bigger issues in sports for inclusion of gay and bi athletes. Finlayson is just not a big problem.

And given what’s happened, we won’t be surprised if he becomes a big part of the solution.