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28 Nov, 2020 10:55

BBC says pundit wasn’t dropped over ‘handbags’ comment after broadcaster accused of ‘overreaction’

BBC says pundit wasn’t dropped over ‘handbags’ comment after broadcaster accused of ‘overreaction’

The BBC has clarified that football pundit Steve Thompson was not suspended after using the term "handbags." Instead, Thompson is said to have been warned over three separate comments he made in the space of 20 minutes.

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.

"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."

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."

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."

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.   

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