A football fan who sent a “vile” racist tweet about Ireland international Michael Obafemi has been sentenced.
wansea City supporter Josh Phillips posted the abusive message on January 28 in response to a tweet from the club announcing that the then 22-year-old player would join Burnley Football Club on loan.
At Swansea Magistrates’ Court, judge Christopher James sentenced Phillips to 12 weeks in prison, with 18 months suspended.
He was also made the subject of an electronic tag requiring him to be home from 5 p.m. to midnight each night for the duration of his sentence.
A football ban was issued, preventing him from visiting Swansea Stadium or entering a licensed ground within 2,500 yards of a Swansea City home game at Liberty Stadium.
In addition, he may not visit any town or city where Swansea is playing or any area where Wales are playing.
Phillips, 26, said he was a supporter of Mr Obafemi and was “upset” by the news when he spoke to friends at a pub where he had been drinking for several hours.
He published the tweet on the evening of January 28, which included a reference to Mr Obafemi’s name and an offensive racist slur. Phillips deleted the tweet in about 20 minutes, but in that time it was seen and shared by other users about 52 times.
Most fans reacted negatively, calling the tweet “unacceptable,” but some were supportive, with one person replying, “Nice one JP.”
At Swansea Magistrates’ Court, Lisa Jones, prosecutor, said yesterday that police had traced the account and that Phillips had been arrested at his home in Swansea on February 1.
While being interviewed, he admitted to sending the tweet, saying he was “disgusted” and “embarrassed” by his actions, describing them as “out of character”.
He later pleaded guilty to sending a message on a public communications network that was grossly abusive, indecent, obscene or threatening, in breach of the Communications Act 2003.
A club season ticket holder from the age of four, Phillips said he had attended every home game since then, as well as about 15 away games per season.
He also held a priority group one subscription for matches in Wales.
Mark Davies, defending, formally apologized to Mr Obafemi on behalf of Phillips at the hearing, telling the court that the defendant had since been fired from his IT job, lost friends and stopped going out.
In a victim impact statement read in court by Ms Jones, Mr Obafemi said: “This is something that has shocked me and made me sick.
“I would describe myself as a black man and this comment is clearly intended to insult me and abuse the color of my skin and insult my race.”
“Racial abuse towards me is totally unacceptable,” he added.
“It is extremely offensive and distressing to me, my family and friends who will read it.
“I would like the person who did this to me to be set an example so that it doesn’t happen again and show people that people in my profession are not afraid to act.”
Judge James said the post was racially aggravated and “posted on a borderless social media platform”.
He added: “It can therefore be viewed nationally and internationally and its potential audience is therefore global.”