Football Association’s new Equality Adviser apologises for calling gays ‘detestable’

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The Football Association’s new Inclusion Advisory board member has apologised for telling the BBC that homosexuality is detestable. One of the board’s primary roles is to tackle homophobia within the sport.

Former Birmingham City defender Michael Johnson was asked by the BBC’s Nick Campbell if he would support the FA’s fight against homophobia during a discussion programme in 2012. He replied:”Because of my beliefs, because of the Bible that I read, in the Bible it does state that homosexuality is detestable unto the Lord.”

The Inclusion Advisory Board will meet for the first time this month and was created to “promote inclusion and tackle discrimination in all its forms”.

Mr Johnson has now apologised for his comments after social media users questioned his suitability for the post. Today in a statement to the Guardian, he said: “I was invited on to the programme in March 2012 to talk about my faith. I was not prepared for the question and it is with deep regret that I answered it in the way I did back then. It was wrong and relates to a view I no longer hold,” Johnson said.

“I have since invested a great deal of my time and energies into re-educating myself through reading, attending workshops and entering into debates. As a result, my whole way of thinking has changed. The Inclusion Advisory Board is all about education and changing opinions and, through my own personal experience and learning, I believe I can have a positive influence on the work being done by football on this vital agenda.”

Former NBA player John Amaechi said: “The FA will say they have brought this man on because of his expertise in anti-racism. The problem is, the reason that homophobia, antisemitism, racism and other misogyny continue to blight football is that the FA does not understand how to tackle it. You don’t put one person to handle racism and a gay person for homophobia, you pick people who understand that all bigotry is the same monster.

“I don’t know this guy apart from shaking his hand at that TV programme, but I would say this – the problem here was not his religion, it was his interpretation of this. There are plenty of people who are religious who would have been ideal candidates for this board, who could have understood where their personal beliefs started and where human dignity begins.

“The new quote from Michael Johnson is very welcome. It is good to see he has evolved as an individual. However I maintain that the FA’s problems with women, BAME and LGBT communities come from choosing never to engage people who will challenge and educate them but rather insiders who qualify as part of the minority-issue they are trying to address. In general, they need more advice from scholars and less from former players, however well meaning.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the Guardian that Mr Johnson’s apology “still doesn’t address the issue of whether the FA properly researched Johnson’s views on tackling homophobia before he was appointed. They still have questions to answer about his appointment criteria and the procedure.

“The FA appears to have done no thorough research on their employees, it looks slapdash and unprofessional. The FA would never appoint a person who refused to support the campaign against racism. Why the double standards?”