Alan Reynolds, Waterford FC Team Manager, fire convicted sex offender Izzy Akinade.
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We say: Rapists have no place in football.
In 2010 Ishmahil (Izzy) Akinade was part of a group that gang raped and sexually assaulted a 14 year old girl in a house and woodland in Kildare. Izzy was 16 at the time. He pleaded guilty when the case finally made it to court in 2014. Justice Ellen Ring said the conviction was punishment enough, as it would likely follow him around and impact on employment opportunities. For this reason she suspended the two year sentence.
The opposite of Ring's prediction occurred. Post his 2014 conviction when he was playing for Bray Wanderers, Izzy was recruited by Bohemians. Since November 2017, he has been a popular and celebrated player with Waterford Football Club. Last July he received a standing ovation for returning to the pitch post illness. He won Man of the Match, an award given to him by one of Waterford FC's sponsors, SSE Airtricity.
Izzy is a very recently convicted sex offender, a role model and a hero to young boys and men. Besides his young fans, presumably the younger Under 19/17/15's teams look up to him.
Izzy has made no attempt to make clear his views on his actions to the fans who look up to him that what he did was wrong. We do believe he has the right to work. We believe that it does not have to be in a role where he influences views about masculinity and sexual violence, and his presence on the pitch does this. This is a damaging message about rape and sexual consent to be giving to Waterford fans.
Holding up a convicted sex offender as a role model and local hero disrespects and disregards the life of his victim, now a woman in her early twenties. At the 2014 trial, the girl stated that she had been on anti-depressants for four years, had fallen out with her family over the rapes and assaults and had serious suicidal ideation.
Her life has been changed utterly, but the convicted perpetrator's life carries on as normal.
Endorsing a sex offender like this is unacceptable, particularly in today's climate, as we as a society deal with the fallout of the Belfast rape trial and all it brought up and revealed. Since the Belfast trial several sports people have been held to account for their misogyny, let alone actually abusing anyone in person. Drogheda United player Luke Rossiter apologised for his misogynistic tweet, as did GAA player Gary Walshe. Malone Rugby Club apologised for the actions of two of their players who took photos in which they appeared to be 'spit roasting' a trophy, with Jackson and Olding's names stuck to their chests. The former two were both dropped in some form, and all three organisations and some sponsors were swift to distance themselves from the men.
But apparently in Waterford Football Club you can rape/sexually abuse/be part of a gang rape of a girl, plead guilty, and they'll welcome you in with open arms. And they'll block anyone who questions them on social media, which says a lot about their attitude around sexual violence.
What message does Waterford's endorsement of a sex offender send to Izzy's teammates? What message does it send to the younger teams? To his young fans, to his fans of all ages? What does this say to the people of Waterford? What does it say to all of the local rape victims? What does it say to aspiring female football players? What does it say about professional football in Ireland that it wasn't protested when he was recruited in the first place?
Most importantly of all, what does it say to other rapists? To misogynists? To predators? It says: you can rape, and still be a hero, still be a role model, still be publicly celebrated. It says: There are no consequences, judicially or socially.
Lets stand with survivors. Lets stand with future survivors. Lets create a country where we are explicit, blunt, and direct in our zero tolerance attitude to rape and sexual violence. Let us say: We do not endorse people who commit this crime in any way, shape or form.
We are calling on Team Manager Alan Reynolds to withdraw a convicted sex abuser from his team. We are asking Alan to have a zero tolerance attitude to any form of sexual violence. Take Izzy off the team. The public endorsement of rapists has no place in football.
We are calling on all who sponsor Waterford Football Club to revoke their sponsorship until Izzy has been withdrawn from the team:
Ken Moore, general manager of Woodlands Hotel Waterford
Aine Murphy, marketing manager with SSE Airtricity
Emma Durkin, marketing manager with ROBUS
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