Leon Knight, ex-footballer and noted misogynist, suspended from Twitter

His "Slag Alert Pictures" stunt backfired.

Leon Knight was a footballer. At the age of 29, he finds himself without a club, after he was released from Glentoran after allegedly making homophobic comments on Twitter.

Until yesterday, though, there was a place where Leon Knight still had an audience: Twitter.  As @leonknight82, he had 102,800 followers, who enjoyed such banterous tweets as "Hoes have to know 80% of men have a sat nav hoe alert device programmed into our brains you can't fool us lol #beat&delete". A month ago, he went after Jamie O'Hara, claiming that his wife Danielle was a "hoe" and trying to provoke both of them into responding to his increasingly obscene tweets. (I made a Storify of that here; it's pretty unpleasant).

Anyway, for the last couple of days, Knight has been trailing "Slag Alert Pictures", his latest brave foray into the world of "exposing" women who've sent dirty pictures to their boyfriends. He even created a hashtag, #SAP. The plan was to tweet compromising pictures of these women, to shame them - and entertain his fans. The stunt added tens of thousands of followers

Now, I'm not going to detain you with amateur psychology on Leon Knight, who seems to veer between common or garden misogyny and "person you'd cross the continent on avoid". I just wanted to make a record of exactly how this went down.

First, Knight tweeted about the #SAP idea, and published an email address for people to send pictures to.

He claimed that someone had sent the following email, and he'd therefore decided to have mercy on them:

 

 

Then he published an image of a chalk board with the Twitter handles of the women he planned to target. Clearly, a fair proportion of his 102,000 fans then got in touch with the women to taunt them about their upcoming public vilification, because you see messages like this:

 

 

Not everyone was cowed, though:

 

 

Rather heartwarmingly, one of the targeted women's timeline simply contained "thank you" after "thank you", as she showed her gratitude to all the people who'd got in touch to say how horrific they found the whole idea.

That angered Leon Knight, who started tweeting that he was going to "ruin her whole life". (I've blanked out her name.)

 

 

Tragically, nothing was going to stop Leon Knight. I missed his initial flurry of tweets, and by the time that I checked, the photos he'd posted had disappeared. Here he claims that "Twitter" had deleted them.

 

By the end of the evening, one of the women said that she was receiving death threats and tweeted a photo of herself apparently in a police station, where she claimed to be reporting the crime. (I've been unable to find any credible report of Knight's arrest, although the rumour has been swirling on blogs and social networking sites). Another one of the Twitter handles from Knight's "blackboard of shame" appeared to show that the account had been deleted. 

And this morning, I checked for Leon Knight's account and found this:

Now, I don't think there are any grand conclusions to be drawn from this - apart from the fact that misogynists have fan clubs. It was a man who tipped me off about Knight's latest rampage, and for every witless idiot cheering him on, there was someone else disgusted by the flagrant bullying and slut-shaming. 

But it is worth recording. Because this stuff happens, and ignoring it won't stop it happening. Staffordshire police looked into Knight's earlier tweets to Jamie and Danielle O'Hara, and yet there he was last night, moving on to a new target. As our lives get more and more networked, those of us who use public spaces are going to have to decide how to deal with the Leon Knights of this world. 

Or, as This Is My England put it:

Digital technologies: changing faster than we get get our heads around the risks which come along with the useful functionalities. So let's be careful out there.

Update 2.30pm I've just contacted Staffordshire Police's press office, who confirm that Knight was cautioned last month over the tweets to the O'Haras. But they haven't received a new complaint.   

Leon Knight, who has been suspended from Twitter, in the shirt of his former club, Swansea. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Getty
Show Hide image

The decline of the north's sporting powerhouse

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Now, things are different.

On a drive between Sheffield and Barnsley, I spotted a striking painting of the Kes poster. Billy Casper’s two-fingered salute covered the wall of a once-popular pub that is now boarded up.

It is almost 50 years since the late Barry Hines wrote A Kestrel for a Knave, the novel that inspired Ken Loach’s 1969 film, and it seems that the defiant, us-against-the-world, stick-it-to-the-man Yorkshireness he commemorated still resonates here. Almost two-thirds of the people of south Yorkshire voted to leave the EU, flicking two fingers up at what they saw as a London-based establishment, detached from life beyond the capital.

But whatever happened to Billy the unlikely lad, and the myriad other northern characters who were once the stars of stage and screen? Like the pitheads that dominated Casper’s tightly knit neighbourhood, they have disappeared from the landscape. The rot set in during the 1980s, when industries were destroyed and communities collapsed, a point eloquently made in Melvyn Bragg’s excellent radio series The Matter of the North.

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Yet today, we rarely get to hear the voices of Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham. And the Yorkshire sporting powerhouse is no more – at least, not as we once knew it.

This should be a matter of national concern. The White Rose county is, after all, the home of the world’s oldest registered football club – Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 – and the first English team to win three successive League titles, Huddersfield Town, in the mid-1920s. Hull City are now Yorkshire’s lone representative in the Premier League.

Howard Wilkinson, the manager of Leeds United when they were crowned champions in 1992, the season before the Premier League was founded, lamented the passing of a less money-obsessed era. “My dad worked at Orgreave,” he said, “the scene of Mrs Thatcher’s greatest hour, bless her. You paid for putting an axe through what is a very strong culture of community and joint responsibility.”

The best-known scene in Loach’s film shows a football match in which Mr Sugden, the PE teacher, played by Brian Glover, comically assumes the role of Bobby Charlton. It was played out on the muddy school fields of Barnsley’s run-down Athersley estate. On a visit to his alma mater a few years ago, David Bradley, who played the scrawny 15-year-old Billy, showed me the goalposts that he had swung from as a reluctant goalkeeper. “You can still see the dint in the crossbar,” he said. When I spoke to him recently, Bradley enthused about his lifelong support for Barnsley FC. “But I’ve not been to the ground over the last season and a half,” he said. “I can’t afford it.”

Bradley is not alone. Many long-standing fans have been priced out. Barnsley is only a Championship side, but for their home encounter with Newcastle last October, their fans had to pay £30 for a ticket.

The English game is rooted in the northern, working-class communities that have borne the brunt of austerity over the past six years. The top leagues – like the EU – are perceived to be out of touch and skewed in favour of the moneyed elites.

Bradley, an ardent Remainer, despaired after the Brexit vote. “They did not know what they were doing. But I can understand why. There’s still a lot of neglect, a lot of deprivation in parts of Barnsley. They feel left behind because they have been left behind.”

It is true that there has been a feel-good factor in Yorkshire following the Rio Olympics; if the county were a country, it would have finished 17th in the international medals table. Yet while millions have been invested in “podium-level athletes”, in the team games that are most relevant to the lives of most Yorkshire folk – football, cricket and rugby league – there is a clear division between sport’s elites and its grass roots. While lucrative TV deals have enriched ruling bodies and top clubs, there has been a large decrease in the number of adults playing any sport in the four years since London staged the Games.

According to figures from Sport England, there are now 67,000 fewer people in Yorkshire involved in sport than there were in 2012. In Doncaster, to take a typical post-industrial White Rose town, there has been a 13 per cent drop in participation – compared with a 0.4 per cent decline nationally.

Attendances at rugby league, the region’s “national sport”, are falling. But cricket, in theory, is thriving, with Yorkshire winning the County Championship in 2014 and 2015. Yet Joe Root, the batsman and poster boy for this renaissance, plays far more games for his country than for his county and was rested from Yorkshire’s 2016 title decider against Middlesex.

“Root’s almost not a Yorkshire player nowadays,” said Stuart Rayner, whose book The War of the White Roses chronicles the club’s fortunes between 1968 and 1986. As a fan back then, I frequently watched Geoffrey Boycott and other local stars at Headingley. My favourite was the England bowler Chris Old, a gritty, defiant, unsung anti-hero in the Billy Casper mould.

When Old made his debut, 13 of the 17-strong Yorkshire squad were registered as working-class professionals. Half a century later, three of the five Yorkshiremen selec­ted for the last Ashes series – Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance – were privately educated. “The game of cricket now is played in public schools,” Old told me. “Top players are getting huge amounts of money, but the grass-roots game doesn’t seem to have benefited in any way.”

“In ten years’ time you won’t get a Joe Root,” Rayner said. “If you haven’t seen these top Yorkshire cricketers playing in your backyard and you haven’t got Sky, it will be difficult to get the whole cricket bug. So where is the next generation of Roots going to come from?” Or the next generation of Jessica Ennis-Hills? Three years ago, the Sheffield stadium where she trained and first discovered athletics was closed after cuts to local services.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era