BBC says pundit wasn’t dropped over ‘handbags’ comment after broadcaster accused of ‘overreaction’
Former Leicester and Sheffield United defender Thompson was working on a lower division match for BBC Radio Lincolnshire when he referred to a scuffle between players as “handbags,” which is defined in the dictionary as “an incident in which people, especially sportsmen, fight or threaten to fight but without real intent to inflict harm.”
He also used the phrase “I think the referee’s wife’s in,” and at one point said a player was "being a bit of a drama queen… he’d have been better wearing a skirt."
After initial reports that Thompson had been axed for his ‘handbags’ comments, the BBC clarified that he had in fact made three separate remarks and had been warned back in 2018 about his language.
The broadcaster also clarified that as a freelancer could not be suspended but would not be used again until 2021.
The initial claims that Thompson had been suspended were met with an angry response from fans, who accused the broadcaster of pandering to complaints from the readily-offended PC brigade.
"'Tommo', who commentates on Lincoln City games, has been suspended by the woke BBC for saying an incident during Tuesday night's game against Swindon involving two players was 'just handbags'," said author and Lincoln fan Bernard O'Mahoney.
What is our country coming to.....— David (@DavidMrplumber) November 28, 2020
Absolute joke you hear it in match of the day all the time. Sky sports almost every game that has a scuffle in it.— Scott Dickens (@scottwdickens) November 28, 2020
Couldn’t agree more. This woke nonsense is ruining every day life. The hypocrisy of the BBC is astounding. I’m certainly going to miss Tommo’s commentary, insight & especially his banter. There’s no harm in him whatsoever. And whoever complained, you’re pathetic. #UTI— James Alexander Kirby (@JamesAlexKirby) November 28, 2020
"Who are these deluded clowns suggesting that 'handbags' is offensive? Women? How does that offend them?
"The world's going mad and the normal people left among us need to make it stop. This guy has a family, it's his job and the BBC think they can punish him for saying f*cking 'handbags'."
Karl McCartney, the long-serving Conservative Member of Parliament for Lincoln, was unimpressed. "Oh dear," he reacted, telling the radio station to show more common sense.
"After all your great work through the pandemic, don’t let it be spoilt by such silliness. I heard the remark live and there was no intent to offend. [The phrase is in] common usage and it is a complete over-reaction to suspend him."
Too woke , it was a sportsman’s comment on a sporting incident, between two sportsmen! Or should I say sportspersons? Get a grip— Howard Kirk (@HowardKirk11) November 28, 2020
Political views aside for this one guys. The BBC has gone from a much loved, highly respected institution to a laughing stock in less than a generation. Ppl don't even try to argue now, they just laugh and shrug.— Marcus (@topicking) November 28, 2020
However, a supporter of the BBC’s stance on such language added: "We could just accept it has homophobic connotations and accept that it’s outmoded terminology.
"He broke the rules of his employer and [we should] move on. I am not sure it’s the BBC that’s out of touch."
Or we could just accept it has homophobic connotations, accept that it’s outmoded terminology. He broke the rules of his employer and move on. I am not sure it’s the BBC that’s out of touch.— Baz Aveyard (@BazAveyard) November 28, 2020
O'Mahoney reeled off a long list of occasions on which the word has been used by broadcasters and high-profile figures over the years, including by England star Jack Grealish, who described an on-pitch row between international teammate Tyrone Mings and fellow Aston Villa player Anwar El Ghazi last year as "all handbags".
"It's not just Lincoln fans who listen to the football," pointed out a fan. "The BBC shouldn't be entertaining a complaint like that. They are trying to be woke."
A ridiculous decision by BBC— Martin Hill (@CllrmHill) November 28, 2020
Surely that means someone complained? So it’s the Lincoln city fans that are “woke” not the BBC and maybe we should wait for a statement from the BBC before we get the handbags out 🤷♂️— Isaac Richmond (@IsaacRichmond2) November 28, 2020
Others told the complainants to "get a f*cking job" so that they had less time to be "offended by every single thing."
"Being genuinely offended by something and seeking out things to be offended about on behalf of others are massively different things," one respondent told O'Mahoney.
"There is definitely a recent trend of people looking to be offended and ruining careers for things said 20 years ago.
“Obviously they've run out of things to complain about from today's world, so they've started trawling history. [They are] oxygen thieves."
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have amended this story to include clarification from the BBC that Steve Thompson was not suspended, and that he had already been warned over his use of language.Also on rt.com ‘He didn’t break the law’: Russian football ethics official backs player ‘who was dropped by US team after refusing to take knee’