Burnley striker Andre Gray could face a five-match ban after being charged with misconduct by The Football Association following the emergence of a series of homophobic tweets sent in 2012. The messages were widely shared on Twitter in the aftermath of the 25-year-old scoring the first Premier League goal of his career in the 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Turf Moor on Saturday (20 August.
"Is it me or are there gays everywhere? #Burn #Die #Makesmesick", read one shocking homophobic post, which was sent when Gray was plying his trade in non-league with Hinckley United. The player has been condemned since those tweets first resurfaced and it was reported on Monday [22 August] that The FA were set to open an investigation.
"Burnley's Andre Gray has been charged with misconduct in respect of social media comments made between 9 January 2012 and 11 March 2012," English football's governing body confirmed via a statement released on their official website.
"It is alleged the comments were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute contrary to FA Rule E3(1).
"It is further alleged that these breaches include reference to an "aggravating factor", namely, sexual orientation and/or gender and/or colour and/or race contrary to FA Rule E3(2).The player has until 6pm on Wednesday 31 August 2016 to respond to the charge."
Gray, who also previously played for Shrewsbury Town, AFC Telford and Luton Town before joining Burnley from Brentford for a then club-record fee in August 2015, subsequently offered a "sincere and unreserved apology" to anybody offended by the tweets, insisting he no longer held the views contained with the posts.
"I was at a very different point in my life back then – one that I've worked hard to move on from," he explained. "Thankfully a lot has changed in my life since then. I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person since that time.
"I have a lot of regrets regarding a number of things I've done in the past and realise I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I've worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time.
"To clarify, I do not hold the beliefs written in those tweets whatsoever. I can assure everybody that I am absolutely not homophobic and as said previously I can only apologise and ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended. Thankfully I am not the guy I was back then and will continue to work hard both on and off the pitch to become a better person."
Burnley also issued an official response over the weekend, in which they made it clear that they "do not condone any discriminatory behaviour by any employee" and reiterated their support for the FA's Football v Homophobia campaign. They also pointed to Gray's own personal apology and stressed that he has "completely transformed his life" since the tweets were written.