Newcastle defender Steven Taylor has some explaining to do after releasing a bizarre Tweet mocking some of his team-mates.
The initial posting came from Massadio Haidara, who teased Taylor about his attempts to learn French:
— Massadio Haidara (@MassadioHaidara) November 15, 2013
All very inoffensive, you would say – until you click on the picture link, which shows a photo-shopped composite featuring a moustachioed youngster in a Netherlands shirt, a man in traditional African clothing, another wearing a fake afro wig and – most disconcertingly – a suited gentleman covered in what appears to be Black and White Minstrels’ style facepaint:
Initial shock at what could have been construed as a racially-tinged retort is tempered by a closer look at the images – the bumfluff-sporting teen in the Dutch shirt is a young Anita, while the other images resemble the remaining three team-mates.
Maybe they are embarrassing snaps from the past that Taylor is using to wind his pals up after the initial tweet, which featured an image of the centre-half reclining in the dressing room.
Or maybe it was an ill-advised attempt at ‘banter’ – or ‘bander’ as Haidara typo-ed in his subsequent tweet.
Or perhaps it was a mixture of the two. Some fans were clearly upset, most their comments a touch too blue to reprint here.
— Gavin Henderson (@GavinSAFC) November 15, 2013
.@27StevenTaylor ..racist jokes with them that suddenly you are able to do it with all black people. We don't know you, so how's that funny?
— Dominic Campbell (@dom_campbell) November 15, 2013
Perhaps we just shouldn't attempt to deconstruct dialogue between footballers, for they know not what they do.
Either way, Taylor later apologised, perhaps realising that - while obviously good-natured - his photo gaffe may have offended people.
"Apologies if my tweet offended anybody", was the simple statement.
UPDATE: Later on Friday, Newcastle tweeted a picture of Taylor playing with an ethnically-diverse group of youngsters as part of a community project.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFCOfficial) November 15, 2013
While the club have every right to highlight the defender's voluntary work, the timing seemed rather transparent and smacked of a 'some of my best friends are black teenagers' defence.
Newcastle might have been better advised to keep schtum and let this one blow over.