Port Vale’s Tom Pope watched “hundreds” of YouTube conspiracy theories before making antisemitic remarks that have led to a six-game ban by the Football Association.
Pope was also fined £3,500 after being found guilty of an “aggravated” breach of the FA’s regulation on abusive speech.
In February, Pope was accused of breaching rule E3 after claiming on Twitter that the Rothschilds would take charge of all the world’s banks in the event of a third world war. An aggravated breach occurs when remarks “include, whether explicit or implied, reference to race and/or religion and/or ethnic origin”.
Pope defended himself, saying he was not antisemitic and that any offence caused by his remarks had been “not intentional”. The FA regulatory commission found against him, however, and argued that Pope had come to believe a number of antisemitic theories after having watched substantial numbers of conspiracy videos on YouTube.
In its written reasons for finding against Pope, the commission observed: “When challenged as to the context in which he wrote [the message] and why he wrote it he explained that he had watched hundreds of conspiracy theory videos about the 9/11 attacks.
“He explained that he found the videos convincing in predicting the invasions of four countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Sudan. He believed, based on those videos, that the Rothschild banking business had funded the invasions of those eight countries so as to be able to take over their banks.”
Although Pope made no mention of the Rothschild’s religion in his messages, the commission found that “the ordinary reasonable person knows very well that the Rothschild family have been used for centuries as a synecdoche for the Jewish people – maligning the family in discourse in order to malign all Jewish people”.
In summing up its decision, the commission said it found that Pope still did not accept the offensive content of what he had written. “It is of particular concern that even now Mr Pope does not acknowledge the antisemitic message that is conveyed by the Statement”, it said. “It is also of concern that he has not seriously questioned the conspiracy theories that he has allowed to inform his views.”
Pope has received two previous bans from the FA for his Twitter use and made headlines after mocking the Manchester City defender John Stones online.
Under FA rules there is no minimum punishment for any abusive speech made by a player off the pitch, though the minimum ban for on-the-pitch abuse is six matches. This season the Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing the Charlton forward Jonathan Leko during a match.