BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — A supporter of English club West Bromwich Albion was handed a jail sentence of eight weeks on Thursday for racially abusing one of his own team’s players on Facebook.
Simon Silwood posted a racist message about Romaine Sawyers, who is Black, following West Brom's 5-0 loss to Manchester City in the Premier League on Jan. 26.
Silwood, 50, denied the offence, telling police his message was “stupid not racial” and claiming autocorrect had changed a word to make it read “baboon" instead of “buffoon.”
Silwood, who has been banned for life by West Brom, was convicted last month after a judge ruled he was “not a credible witness” and had meant the post to be offensive.
The court heard that Sawyers, who is currently on loan at second-tier club Stoke and was reporting a separate alleged racist social media post when he was shown Silwood’s message, was left feeling “harassed, alarmed and distressed” after reading it.
Passing sentence on Silwood at a court in Birmingham, central England, on Thursday, district judge Briony Clarke said he had shown “very minimal” remorse.
“In my view, it falls into the category of greatest harm," the judge said. “We have to accept it had a wider impact and a substantial impact on Mr. Sawyers.”
Silwood was charged following an investigation carried out by Britain's first dedicated hate crime officer within a football unit.
Prosecutors said Silwood posted the message to a West Brom Fan Zone group on Facebook, saying Sawyers should win the “Baboon d’Or” — a sarcastic reference to the Ballon d’Or trophy.
Sawyers said he felt “numb” when he read it.
“The whole incident has left me extremely upset," he said in a statement provided to the court.
“I find it difficult to believe that in 2021 there are still people out in society who believe it is acceptable to behave like this.”
Rupert Jones, defending Silwood, said his client “has suffered a very public humiliation, entirely of his own doing” and has received threats since his conviction.
"He has now had the opportunity, somewhat ironically, to experience what that is like,” Jones said.
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The Associated Press