The death threats and vile abuse aimed at James McClean and his family have been condemned by his brother Patrick.
The Republic of Ireland and Stoke winger, a regular target for online trolls, has received messages targeting his children with threats related to the coronavirus.
The fresh wave of abuse follows McClean being fined two weeks’ wages by his club and agreeing to delete his Instagram account after a controversial post. McClean shared a picture of himself wearing a balaclava in front of two of his kids, with the caption: “Today’s School lesson – History.”
While a laughing emoji underlined the intended nature of the home-schooling joke, his club took a dim view. McClean “apologised unreservedly” via a Stoke statement, saying, “I never wanted to cause any offence but I now realise that I did so”.
The renewed torrent of abuse that followed has now been revealed by his younger brother and Glentoran defender Patrick, who shared some of the messages on Instagram.
“One said, ‘I hope your kids get coronavirus’, and ‘I hope they die in a house fire’,” Patrick told the Derry Journal.
“There has to be something mentally wrong with you to write something like that. To have so much hatred inside you to write that is unbelievable.”
He added: “James can take stick all day but when it comes to the kids, that’s too far. It’s been eight years of non-stop abuse, day in, day out. He’s tried to have a joke and he’s been fined two weeks’ wages and made to delete his account and his kids are now getting death threats.
“I’m defending my brother. I’m defending my family. Those are my nieces and nephew who are being talked about. It’s always bad press he gets but nothing can justify the death threats or the nasty abuse his family and kids get. That’s just not right.
“One of the people who was giving abuse has been messaging me since I put up a post, telling me he’s now getting nasty messages and threats himself and has asked me to please take it down. Imagine getting that for years. He’s asking me to take down his post after a couple of days of it.”
Patrick compared the treatment of James, who has refused to wear a remembrance poppy out of respect for those killed by British soldiers in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972, to that of Declan Rice during his time playing for Ireland.
“If anyone thinks James has actually sat his kids down and taught them about it (The Troubles), they didn’t really get the joke. Look at Declan Rice, when he was playing for Ireland he wrote ‘Up the Ra’ and not a word was said.
“Alan Partridge did a sketch on a TV show recently singing ‘Come out Ye Black and Tans’ and again it’s accepted as a humour. But as soon as James does something, it goes crazy.”