Footballer Robert Grant cleared of racial abuse allegations during Dagenham match
- Credit: Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO
Professional footballer Robert Grant was yesterday cleared of allegations he racially abused a black opponent at a match held on a club anti-racism day.
The jury found unanimously in favour of Grant who said Dagenham and Redbridge defender Gavin Hoyte “misunderstood” him when he threw an insult after the player trod on his toe during a league game when Grant was a striker at Rochdale FC.
The 23-year-old, who now plays for Blackpool FC, gave evidence at Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday telling Judge William Kennedy he had not called Hoyte a “coon” as had been claimed, but used another non-racial c-word expletive.
“I pushed Gavin off and called him a stupid c***.
“He turned around and said ‘What have you just called me? A coon?’ I said no.”
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The exchange took place at the Daggers ground in Victoria Road, Dagenham, on January 12 in the dying minutes of the game.
Moments later a challenge for a header between the two players saw Hoyte come off worst leading him to face up to Grant, of Enstone Avenue, Liverpool, and accuse him of being racist before making a complaint to the referee.
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“I said ‘what are you on about?’ when he asked me if I was being racist,” said Grant.
During a phone call between the two players later that day, prompted by their respective managers, Grant told Hoyte: “You have massively misunderstood what I have said,” though racial abuse allegations were still made against him.
The championship striker was interviewed by police in February where he again denied using a racial slur, telling officers: “I don’t say those kind of things. I have black friends, I have black team mates. It isn’t in my nature.”
Asked in court by defence solicitor Robert Shaw how being accused of using a racial slur had made him feel, he said: “I was frustrated and I was upset to be honest because I have never been involved in anything like that.
“I’m not that type of lad. I don’t use racist language.”
A former conviction for affray in 2008 was ruled by Judge Kennedy not to have a bearing on Grant’s character during the trial as it did not involve racism.
Grant was cleared of the charge of racially aggravated intentional harassment.