Bernard O’Byrne resigns from Basketball Ireland over “Black Dives Matter” message

Basketball Ireland and Bernard O’Byrne have reached a “joint decision” to remove the chief executive with immediate effect. This is the second time that O’Byrne, a longtime footballer, has been expelled from an Irish sports organization amid controversy.

The united front on Tuesday evening, despite the 71-year-old “Black Dives Matter !!!” to a BBC story about Raheem Sterling, appears to be an attempt by the governing body to shield him from enduring accusations of racism.

“Whether Bernard O’Byrne is racist or not, he put himself in that position,” Jerome Westbrooks, the American basketball player turned teacher from Dublin who came to Ireland 40 years ago, told Newstalk.

“Bernard’s comment on social media was unacceptable,” said Paul McDevitt, president of Basketball Ireland before describing the former FAI CEO as “a driving force within the basketball community in Ireland to fight against bullying and negative attitudes regarding gender, sexuality and race “.

“His brief error in judgment,” McDevitt added, “does not reflect who I know or Basketball Ireland as an organization.”

And yet the Facebook post damaged the organization’s global reputation – especially when CBS News reported the story – which O’Byrne spent 10 years trying to restore after financial mismanagement prior to his appointment. .

“I can firmly say that his remarks do not represent how the basketball community feels about race and diversity,” Aidan Igiehon tweeted last Friday.

The 20-year-old Dubliner is a rarity in Irish sport, in that he stays away from the NBA after playing NCAA Division 1 basketball for the Louisville Cardinals.

“I am not writing this to promote hatred towards Bernard O’Byrne, but to educate him on his diction.”

Igiehon’s diplomatic rebuke of a career administrator, who occupied a role requiring a natural flair for the language, was generous.

“My comment was an improvised and extremely poorly judged attempt at humor based solely on puns,” said O’Byrne, “which was never intended to be race-insensitive or take to the lightly organizations that have done so much to help raise awareness about inclusion and discrimination.

O’Byrne, who recently returned to junior football as club chairman of Meath Athboy Celtic, still presents himself on Twitter as a board member of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba).

Credit card

“Bernard’s position as a member of the board of Fiba still needs to be clarified,” said a spokesperson for Basketball Ireland.

O’Byrne also highlights other career achievements such as five years as CEO of the FAI from 1996 to 2001. His time at the helm of Irish football is remembered in part for his failure to turn Eircom Park into a new one. national stadium. A rival faction within the FAI, which included John Delaney, was in favor of the equally unhappy “Bertie Bowl” in Abbotstown.

Neither project ultimately produced a stadium, but during the internal feud, O’Byrne was accused of misusing the association’s credit card, a charge he denied, while admitting a number of administrative errors.

“For the sake of football,” Delaney said in 2001, “I think he should go.”

O’Byrne refunded the money he spent on the ISP credit card, citing “inadvertent miscalculations”.

He also oversaw the promotion of players from the Republic of Ireland to first class seats for international travel after Roy Keane lamented that blazers were a priority and served as the FAI’s chief security officer in 1994 when fans English revolted at Lansdowne Road.

In April 2001, the FAI and O’Byrne agreed on a six-figure sum described as a “confidential voluntary retirement plan”.

When asked Tuesday night to Basketball Ireland whether O’Byrne should receive a similar severance package, they replied that the “arrangement” was a “private matter”.

In 2017, O’Byrne’s reputation was rehabilitated enough as CEO of basketball to cause a run against Sarah Keane for President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, vacant after Pat Hickey was jailed at the Olympics. of Rio for his alleged role in ticket sales.

Keane won with 29 of 43 votes. O’Byrne got two votes.

“I love basketball,” he said last year, “but I started out as football and I will end up in football.”

From his perspective, Athboy Celtic could be considered the only winner here.


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