HIBS star Fraser Mullen has sparked a row after branding someone who tormented him on a night out a “poof”.
Mullen, 19, used the offensive term in a message posted on social media site Twitter at 1.50am yesterday, which has since been deleted.
The message read: “To the homosexual who ruined my night. Thank you poof bore off and grow a set.”
It was instantly retweeted by people outraged at the term – and has sparked fury from gay rights campaigners.
Mullen, a former Hearts player, has faced jeers from some fans of the Tynecastle club after crossing the Edinburgh divide earlier this year.
Today, Mullen apologised for the “stupid and unacceptable” remark.
In a statement on the club’s official website, Mullen said: “I deeply regret what was a stupid and unacceptable tweet, and I want to apologise for any offence it may have caused.
“I realised my actions were wrong very quickly, and took down the tweet within minutes.
“The tweet has obviously been seen by some people and I accept that my choice of words was completely inappropriate.”
A club spokesman added: “Fraser has apologised for his actions. The club cannot condone the content of his tweet, and will carry out its own investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding this and will take whatever action we deem appropriate.”
However, it comes just days after a major campaign was launched aimed at eradicating homophobia in football.
Gay rights charity Stonewall distributed multi-coloured laces to 42 Scottish professional clubs in the hope that players would lace their boots up in support of the campaign, called Right Behind Gay Footballers.
Daniel Aldridge, policy manager for Stonewall Scotland, said: “More than 50 per cent of young LGB people in Scotland suffer homophobic bullying in our schools and nearly all hear insulting homophobic remarks like ‘poof’ there. Mr Mullen’s comments unfortunately give the green light to bullies and sadly this tweet exposes a side of our national game that alienates LGB people, their families and friends.
“If Scottish football is serious about tackling homophobia, it must start acting on these issues. As a first step, we would welcome work with Hibernian FC and the SFA to make sure Scottish football is a place where everyone is welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation.’
Tom French, policy co-ordinator for Edinburgh-based LGBT charity the Equality Network, said research showed homophobia was still a “big problem” within sport.
He said: “There is never an excuse for homophobia and such language is particularly damaging when it comes from a public figure who could be seen as a role model to many young people.”
But former Hearts star Kevin Twaddle, 42, said people should bear in mind the player’s young age – and try to imagine the amount of abuse he gets.
Twaddle said: “I feel a wee bit sorry for the guy – he’s gone from Hearts to Hibs and he’s going to get people winding him up wherever he goes. You take so much abuse when you are a footballer up the town it’s unbelievable, but then when you give anything back people don’t like it.”
Glasgow-born Mullen – who has 3800 Twitter followers – is represented by the agents ViolaFC. A spokesman for the firm said: “It was a mistake. He went out and one or two people had given him a hard time and a bit of stick. He lashed out but he deleted the tweet straight away.”
Former Hibee Leigh Griffiths was driven to the brink of suicide after months of internet abuse aimed at his children. He gave up Twitter because of it.