A Manchester United supporter has had his three-year ban overturned, after the club mistakenly thought he had racially abused Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Son Heung-Min.
The Red Devils banned three season ticket holders – two members and one person on a waiting list – for sending racist abuse to Son after United’s 3-1 win over Tottenham in April.
It appeared to be a positive move from the club in the fight against racism, however, it then emerged United supporter Ryan Butler was mistaken for another supporter who sent racist tweets to Son.
However, the club confused him with another Irish supporter with the surname Butler, and subsequently banned him from watching any matches for three years.
“That person’s handle was Butler, which is my last name, and had Irish flags attached, so I can only assume that they’ve gone into their system, seen Butler, that I’m based in Ireland and then went ‘that’s him’,” Butler said to Armaghi.
“If they had have given any context from the start that it was on Twitter, I could have had it resolved much quicker,” he added.
The club soon apologised for their error, as well as calling for greater social media verification to ensure mistaken identity incidents like this do not happen again.
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“In this case, we regrettably made a mistake, and the ban was revoked. We apologise to Mr Butler,” they said in a statement.
“We take reasonable steps to verify the identity of those suspected of abuse and everyone sanctioned has the right of appeal.
“This incident highlights that fact that identifying those responsible for online abuse is made more difficult given social media users are not required to verify their ID.”
However, Butler still feels angry and humiliated about the situation.
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He also said he is not sure whether his love and passion for the club will ever be the same.
“I don’t mind them going out and proactively going up against racism online, I’m all for that, but it was the treatment after that,” said Butler.
“I can’t watch Man Utd in the same way that I did before.
“it’s not because they called me racist, it’s the treatment afterwards which is hard to swallow. I don’t think I can really support them properly again.”