BT Sports presenter Jake Humphrey is not everyone's cup of tea.
The football anchor and presenter of the High Performance podcast has become something of a bete noire for football fans over the last number of years. While Twitter users are prone to cruel and hurtful pile-ons, in fairness to the internet, Humphrey does have an uncanny ability to say absolutely stupid things.
The latest example came this afternoon at St James's Park. As the BT Sports panel were building up to Newcastle v Liverpool, the topic of sportswashing was inevitably raised
As we all know, the club is effectively owned now by the Saudi Arabian state, a country that executed 81 people on one day last month.
But the club's new ownership have put their petrodollars to good use, recruiting Eddie Howe as manager and signing talent like Bruno Guimares and Chris Wood.
The mood music around the pitch at St James Park is very positive these days. It's just a pity for some of members of the football media that this conversation about how the Saudi state treats women, gay people and people from Yemen amongst others rolls on.
Luke Edwards of the Telegraph is one football writer who's been swayed by the new regime on Tyneside.
You might see sportswashing, but what #nufc see is togetherness, unity, hope and joy - a team that has won 6 home games in a row under a brilliant manager, Eddie Howe, who introduced team photos after every victory. You might think it's weird but you must also accept it's working https://t.co/GDqdwIE5bj
— Luke Edwards (@LukeEdwardsTele) April 21, 2022
Humphrey offered a defense of them as well this afternoon on BT Sports.
Jake Humphrey puts his foot in it
That’s Amnesty International told. pic.twitter.com/qwwT4rJCEA
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) April 30, 2022
He said: "As ever with this club there's people standing on the sidelines ready to snipe, and have a bit of a pop. And at the moment, it's proving difficult for them."
It's strange to call criticism of Newcastle's ownership 'sniping'. This is different from fans criticising Man City for buying the Premier League or Man United for being a club of ego-maniacs. The people who 'snipe' at Newcastle are asking if a Premier League club should be owned and operated by a state with an incredibly dubious human rights record.
We'd like to recommend Humphrey read Amnesty International's introduction to its latest report on Saudi Arabia:
The crackdown continued on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Specialized Criminal Court handed down heavy prison terms to individuals for their human rights work and expression of dissenting views. Among those arbitrarily detained, prosecuted or sentenced were human rights defenders, government critics and other political activists. Women human rights defenders were subjected to judicially imposed travel bans following conditional release from prison. Courts resorted extensively to the death penalty and people were executed for a wide range of crimes. Migrant workers continued to be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation under the country’s sponsorship system, and tens of thousands were arbitrarily detained and subsequently deported. Prison authorities violated the right to health of human rights defenders and others imprisoned after grossly unfair trials.
The statement has gotten the biggest reaction of anything Humphrey has said since he discovered podcasting.
David Ginola's reaction to some classic Humphrey b*nter back in 2013 has aged wonderfully.
UPDATE: Jake Humphrey would go on to offer a half hearted backtracking of his comments during the post-match coverage. After Eddie Howe's interview, Humphrey said:
Off the pitch, the ownership situation here will always quite rightly lead to questions. Certainly any praise from me for this football club is aimed at Eddie, his players, and at the fans.
UPDATE TO UPDATE: Humphrey continued to explain himself on Twitter after the game.
I appreciate how this clip looks. Let me be absolutely clear though, Eddie Howe had left us moments before this, we were talking about him, and my praise, my use of ‘they’ was aimed squarely and only at him and his staff. https://t.co/tFhqgVfIVd
— Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) April 30, 2022
Humphrey has the Ukraine flag for a twitter emoji, so you'd think he'd be a bit more sensitive on the topic of despotism.