Non-League Week: The Shaun Tuck Case Reaches An Inevitable Conclusion

By on Sep 7, 2013 in Latest, Non-League | 0 comments

In the end, it turned out that he just couldn’t keep his thoughts to himself. When the now former Witton Albion striker Shaun Tuck was imprisoned for three months in July – he served half of the sentence – for offences under the Communications Act over grotesquely offensive tweets that the player sent in the aftermath of the horrific incident that occurred outside Woolwich Barracks earlier this year. It had been a surprise to some that Witton Albion opted to retain the player’s registration, but the Northern Premier League club made the decision that the player deserved a second chance, and so it was that he returned to the pitch for them – predictably enough, with a goal – earlier this season when he returned from the substitute’s bench against Kings Lynn Town last Saturday.

It was, perhaps, predictable that his next match should have been away against the club whose supporters had been the loudest in criticising him since he made his original comments, FC United of Manchester. On the night of the match, however, Tuck wasn’t on the team-sheet and FC United won by a comfortable scoreline of three goals to one. It has since come to light why this was. It turned out that Tuck had been busy at a keyboard again, this time on Facebook, with some interesting opinions on FC United of Manchester, prior to the match there (thanks, by the way, to the splendid A Fine Lung for saving this message for posterity):

Home from work, today was shite an site was a shithole!!! Nice relaxing night tonight then its a massive game tomorrow night against…. Hmmmm well lets just introduce them as a very little team from manchester. The threats have already started against me, an they will probably sing about my mum an dad too… They will want me to explode an they wont get what they want. As long as the wittoners sing my name then people who make love to there sisters in souped up corsa’s wont ever matter to me!! Since ive been released from jail they have been tweeting about me everyday hahahaha thats obviously in between breaks on the jeremy kyle show… Even the co-owner of there club has tweeted about me being a convicted racist????? When my conviction is under the communications act… So would that be defamation of character?? Going to see where i stand with legal action. About time people got a taste of there own medicine!!

This, it turned out, was in breach of an agreement reached between the player and the club on Tuesday night, and it proved to be a step too far for Witton Albion, who terminated the player’s contract yesterday with some withering comments from the club’s chairman, Mark Harris:

Shaun saw fit to go again on social media on Monday night, something he had agreed not to do. As a result, we told him to stay away from Gigg Lane, where I apologised to FC United of Manchester officials on behalf of the club. We gave somebody a second chance because we felt that was the right thing to do. If when you do, that individual throws it back in your face then there can only be one conclusion.

What I find concerning is that the great strength of this club – its unity – has been threatened. It is unacceptable to see fans at each other’s throats, be that here at the ground or on Internet forums. Only two people have had the balls to come directly to me and express a view on how the club has handled the situation with Shaun Tuck, which is a source of great regret. Others have chosen to sit at their keyboards and say stuff, which is gutless. It’s vital now we focus again on what is important, and that’s football.

Whilst we may disagree with Harris’ final comment – we might well contend that there are many more important things in life than football, not least in terms of this particular story – it’s not necessarily difficult to have some sympathy with him. We might well also disagree with his decision to retain the player after the events of this summer, and consider the fact that the damage done to the reputation of his club might have been avoided had the club taken the decision that they took yesterday a couple of months ago. However, the ultimate responsibility for what has happened with regard to this story rests with the player himself.

The small matter of whether Tuck wishes for what he said to remain in the public domain or not by issuing legal proceedings for defamation against those who have levelled the accusation of racism against him. There are plenty of examples in the past of individuals using the defence ‘using racist language but not being a racist’ in the past, of course. after claiming that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world, the actor Mel Gibson claimed that “I’m not a racist” and “I’m not a bigot”, whilst, after making highly questionable comments about Tiger Woods, the golfer Sergio Garcia apologised, adding that, “but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.” Psychologists have in the past examined this phenomenon, and the most common consensus seems to be that people tend to carry narratives about themselves, self-concepts, and that to make such an assertion after having caught out in this way may be as much an attempt to explain their behaviour to themselves as to the outside world.

Should Tuck wish to continue to prolong his time in the public eye over this matter, then that is his decision. However, to prove defamation then he would need to prove that in the estimation of what a Court would call “right thinking people” it would be unreasonable to read what he wrote and not reach the conclusion that he was racist. It should make for an interesting conversation with his legal adviser, at least. In addition to this, it has also already been suggested that Tuck is set to sign a contract to play for another club in the Northern Premier League. He has already talked – or typed – his way out of one contract. How might this other club feel about this player choosing to take this action in the public domain? Considering the events of the last three months or so, it might be advisable for Tuck to keep quiet on this matter in the future.

When we originally ran this story in May, it was under the headline of, “Meet Shaun Tuck, The Racist Non-League Footballer.” This was not a decision that was taken lightly, because we are fully aware of the implications of reaching such a conclusion. It is, however, a headline that we stand by fully. The language that Tuck used was unacceptable under any circumstances and we have seen little since that original article to dissuade us of that opinion. Our follow-up article, published in July, was entitled, “Lessons Must Be Learned From The Shaun Tuck Case.” We might reasonably assume that Witton Albion Football Club has learned some harsh lessons over the last few days and weeks. It is to be hoped that the club will learn from what has undoubtedly been a chastening experience. It would seem that Shaun Tuck didn’t learn many from his chastening experience. Perhaps in the future, however, he will engage his brain before committing fingers to keyboard. We live in hope.

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