A Scottish former criminal barrister has been dropped as an after-dinner speaker after he allegedly made a series of ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ jokes at a football awards ceremony that honoured Sir Alex Ferguson.
Guests present claimed that the lawyer had used the word ‘p**f’ while joking about his own father being homophobic. They also told The Telegraph that he used the word ‘N*p’, allegedly in connection with Celtic signing three Japanese players in January.
BBC Sport presenter Eilidh Barbour and Women in Journalism Scotland co-chair Gabriella Bennett both led a protest walkout at yesterday’s event and tweeted about the event without naming Mr Copeland.
Following a Twitter backlash, a representative for Mr Copeland and the SFWA both apologised for any offence caused – and the ex-lawyer was dropped as an after-dinner speaker by his agency.
Kick It Out and Women In Football released a joint statement condemning the remarks, saying the SFWA awards night ‘should not be used as a platform to share derogatory and discriminatory comments and make those groups and communities feel excluded and insulted’.
Ms Barbour tweeted: ‘Never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers Awards.
‘A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place #callitout #equalgame’.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland today, Ms Bennet said she was ‘sickened’ by Mr Copeland’s remarks.
She said: ‘I really enjoy it as an event, but there are always off-colour jokes made by the speakers… sexist or misogynistic.
‘But last night’s speech was really next-level. I walked out after about five minutes of maybe a 20-minute speech. My table stood up to leave, and I saw Eilidh Barbour and people on her table start to leave. But there were loads of people laughing at these jokes.
‘We were two tables in an enormous room and lots of people found it really funny, so there’s lots of work that we still need to do in really changing people’s minds about what’s acceptable.
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‘I’m no longer shocked or surprised by these kind of offensive remarks masquerading as banter… but I am sickened – by normalising this kind of thing, by minimising these kind of remarks… it’s incredibly insidious.
‘It’s really damaging for women trying to be respected. It allows men to speak to women in a certain way in a professional situation.’
In a statement, the SFWA said: ‘The Scottish Football Writers’ Association apologises to anyone offended or upset by material from one of our after-dinner speakers at last night’s annual awards dinner.
‘We have agreed unanimously that this will act as a catalyst to review and improve the format of our future events to make it an enjoyable and inspirational event for all.’
Former Scotland international Leanne Crichton, who was at the dinner, told the BBC she left the event feeling ‘disheartened’.
‘There’s still a long way to go and I think last night was a stark reminder of that,’ she added.
In a joint statement, Kick It Out and Women In Football said: ‘We have been made aware of sexist, racist and homophobic remarks made at the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards last night, during an after-dinner speech.
‘Women face sexism and misogyny in society, and this is often exacerbated when they play a role in football and other sports – whether they’re a player, a pundit or a fan. That must change.
‘Racism and homophobia continue to be a stain on the game, and we must continue to challenge it and eradicate it. There is no place for any form of discrimination, in sport or anywhere else.
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