Ireland basketball CEO steps down after post about Sterling

DUBLIN (AP) — Bernard O’Byrne has stepped down as chief executive of Ireland’s basketball federation after his offensive social media post about England soccer player Raheem Sterling.

O’Byrne wrote “Black Dives Matter” in response to a BBC post about the controversial penalty won by Sterling in England’s 2-1 victory over Denmark in the European Championship semifinals.

The penalty was awarded by the referee in extra time. A video review confirmed the decision.

O’Byrne had apologized but Basketball Ireland said in a statement late Tuesday that a “joint decision” was made for the CEO to leave.

“Basketball Ireland takes a zero tolerance stance on any form of discrimination, and diversity and inclusion are key pillars in our sport,” said Basketball Ireland chairman Paul McDevitt, describing the comment as “unacceptable.”

O’Byrne’s comment preceded the wave of racist abuse directed toward Black players from the England squad after their shootout loss to Italy in the European Championship final.

O’Byrne had joined the federation in 2011 after a stint as CEO of the Football Association of Ireland.

“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,” O’Byrne said in the joint statement with the governing body.

“I am deeply apologetic over the hurt caused by my remark and I am fully cognizant of the struggles with discrimination that many people are having to deal with in day-to-day life,” his statement continued. “My comment was an off-the-cuff, extremely ill-judged attempt at humor based on wordplay only, that was never intended to be racially insensitive or make light of organizations which have done so much to help raise awareness of inclusion and discrimination.”

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