Sunderland Echo reporter moved on by editor after backlash over 'abhorrent' Facebook messages posted six years ago

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A local newspaper sports reporter has issued an apology to readers over “pathetic, infantile” and “abhorrent” Facebook messages he posted six years ago about the club he now covers.

Newcastle United fan Liam Kennedy posted the apology on the website of the Sunderland Echo, where he reports on Sunderland football club.

UPDATE (in bold):

But it was not enough to assuage irate fans who have sucured his removal from his job.

Editorial director Joy Yates said in a note to readers posted online:

“We have received a large number of complaints about comments made by journalist Liam Kennedy before he was employed by the Sunderland Echo.
“We have taken these concerns from our readers very seriously.
“The Echo has a dedicated team of staff writing, gathering and overseeing sport content – Liam is one of these journalists.
“For a number of reasons, the decision has now been made that Liam will no longer be covering SAFC. We are always happy to take on board feedback from our readers.
“I hope we can bring this issue to a close and continue to provide unrivalled and award-winning coverage of the club that is as important to us as it is to our readers. The level of response on this issue from our readers highlights how important our coverage is to the fans and the city and for this we are appreciative and proud.”
Kennedy’s apology said: “A number of my Facebook posts from six years ago have spread like wildfire on Sunderland AFC forums and social media. And rightly so.

“Looking back at those comments I’m ashamed. It embarrasses me to see my name against such abhorrent language online.

“The pathetic, infantile posts were penned before I was a professional journalist. I am a different person now. It was a long time ago. Not to make light of the situation, but they were seen as jokes among friends.

“The subject matter may have been derogatory, but it was not ever directed towards anyone in particular. I was young, daft and trying to be clever. It turns out, putting things like that online was not so clever at all.”

He also added: “Nothing gets me more excited, exasperated and emotional than Wear-Tyne derbies, I’m sure many of you out there will know the feeling. Maybe in the distant past I have let that get the better of me, for that, all I can do is say sorry. I am offering a whole-hearted apology to readers who are offended and angry. I hope you will support the work I do in a job that I am extremely honoured to have.”

The post has attracted more than 100 comments since Friday, with many sharply critical of Kennedy.

One un-named commenter said: “We’ve all worked in Sunderland with sneering skunks who openly despise Sunderland , the club and its people, but are happy to take our money and one of our jobs … How on earth this dyed in the wool SAFC hater and mag fan has got this job is beyond belief and I will never buy the Echo again while he’s covering our club .”

However another said: “I cannot believe the vicious comments posted on this item. The lad made a mistake and has apologised. Move on. The fact that he has supported NUFC is irrelevent to anyone who has half a brain.”

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