Newspaper takes sports writer off Sunderland AFC beat after outcry over Facebook posts
A sports writer recently hired by the Sunderland Echo will no longer report on Sunderland matches after an outcry from readers about "abhorrent" Facebook posts.
Newcastle United fan Liam Kennedy has only just joined the Johnston Press title after four years on the Dundee Evening Telegraph, but derogatory Facebook messages he sent some years ago have emerged and circulated on Sunderland fan forums.
Kennedy had attempted to quell the storm by claiming he was "young and daft" and that the "pathetic, infantile posts were penned before I was a professional journalist".
But with a backlash from readers only growing, the Echo has now published a statement from editor Joy Yates confirming that Kennedy will "no longer be covering" the club.
She said: "We have received a large number of complaints about comments made by journalist Liam Kennedy before he was employed by the Sunderland Echo. We have taken these concerns from our readers very seriously.
"The Echo has a dedicated team of staff writing, gathering and overseeing sport content - Liam is one of these journalists. For a number of reasons, the decision has now been made that Liam will no longer be covering SAFC.
"We are always happy to take on board feedback from our readers. I hope we can bring this issue to a close and continue to provide unrivalled and award-winning coverage of the club that is as important to us as it is to our readers. The level of response on this issue from our readers highlights how important our coverage is to the fans and the city and for this we are appreciative and proud."
The decision is likely to be an embarrassment for those who hired Kennedy, a known supporter of Sunderland's bitterest enemies.
Indeed, Kennedy himself had admitted in his final column for the Dundee Evening Telegraph that his new move may raise eyebrows.
"Pastures new are calling and Premier League football with the Sunderland Echo. Yes, you did read that right — Sunderland.
"And before you all start, I’m a Geordie, yes, but, first and foremost, a football fan. And, in my defence, I haven’t supported a club I’ve covered yet, despite the protestations of many an Arab on social media."