Bernard O’Byrne steps down as Basketball Ireland CEO after Sterling comment

ireland
Bernard O’byrne Steps Down As Basketball Ireland Ceo After Sterling Comment
He said he was “deeply apologetic” over the comment. Picture: INPHO
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James Cox

Bernard O’Byrne is stepping down from his role as CEO and Secretary General of Basketball Ireland with immediate effect following his social media post about England footballer Raheem Sterling.

Mr O’Byrne replied to a BBC Facebook post about the penalty won by Sterling in England’s Euro 2020 semi-final victory over Denmark, writing: “BLACK DIVES MATTER”.

He said he was “deeply apologetic” over the comment.

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

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Basketball Ireland chairman Paul McDevitt said: “I am very disappointed that Bernard is retiring under these circumstances. We know that the basketball community and beyond has felt particularly let down over the last few days and we will continue to listen to and address any concerns that are raised. Basketball Ireland takes a zero tolerance stance on any form of discrimination, and diversity and inclusion are key pillars in our sport.

“Bernard’s comment on social media was unacceptable. It has subsequently cast him in an unfavourable light, which is very unfortunate as over the last decade he has been a driving force within the basketball community in Ireland in addressing bullying and negative attitudes regarding gender, sexuality and race. His brief lapse in judgement does not reflect the person I know, nor Basketball Ireland as an organisation.”

During his tenure he helped clear the organisation’s legacy debt of €1.2m. In the last five years playing membership has increased by 66 per cent to over 30,000 in 227 clubs, while more than 800 schools now participate in the sport.

Mr O'Byrne added: “I wish the Basketball Ireland community the very best for the future and hope they continue the impressive work and achievements that I have had the honour to assist with during the last 10 years.”

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