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UK: New football advisor who called gays ‘detestable’ steps down

Michael Johnson faced criticism for anti-gay comments on BBC show

Former football player Michael Johnson, who was appointed to the Football Association's Inclusion Advisory Board, referred in 2012 to a biblical passage that says homosexuality is 'detestable' but now says he no longer holds that view. Credit: bbc.co.uk
Former soccer player Michael Johnson, who was questioned in 2012 about whether he supports the Football Association’s anti-homophobia campaign, cited the Bible as saying that homosexuality is “detestable.” youtube.com

A former footballer who faced criticism for making anti-gay comments during an appearance on a BBC One program has stepped down from the Football Association's (FA) Inclusion Advisory Board.

Michael Johnson, who was appointed to the board in December, was asked if he supports the FA's anti-homophobia campaign during a 2012 segment of The Big Questions show

Johnson replied, "Because of my beliefs, because of the Bible that I read, in the Bible it does state that homosexuality is detestable unto the Lord."

He apologized for the remarks after his appointment to the Inclusion Advisory Board was questioned, saying that he no longer holds that view, The Guardian reports. He added that his "whole way of thinking" had changed because he had taken the time to educate himself through various means.

According to the report, Inclusion Advisory Board chair Heather Rabbatts said she had accepted Johnson's expression of regret and felt he had a "huge amount" to offer the board.

But on Jan 7, the FA released a statement announcing Johnson's decision to step down.

"I've taken time over the weekend to reflect on the media coverage from last week and feel that it's in the best interests of all concerned if I step down from my duties with the Inclusion Advisory Board," Johnson says, according to the FA statement.

"My position on the Inclusion Advisory Board was voluntary and I've decided to use that time to continue my personal development and education within equality," the former player adds. "I remain a big advocate of inclusion in football and have actively supported The FA's COACH programme which offers aspiring coaches from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds a chance to progress their football qualifications."

Rabbatts called Johnson's decision to resign "unfortunate" but says he is "100 percent behind the aims of the Inclusion Advisory Board." Rabbatts adds that the board will be speaking to Johnson regularly as it goes about its work.  

Former NBA player John Amaechi, who appeared on The Big Questions with Johnson in 2012, says the controversy raises questions about whether the FA understands how to address homophobia and other forms of discrimination that continue to be problems in football.