EA has banned a FIFA player for life after he sent racist messages to a former soccer player. Patrick O'Brien lost an Ultimate Team game with a virtual version of Ian Wright, which led to the teenager sending 20 abusive messages to Wright over Instagram last May.
O'Brien was charged over the incident. While he pled guilty, a judge spared the Irish 18-year-old from a criminal conviction last month. The judge acknowledged O'Brien showed legitimate remorse — he apologized to Wright and made a donation to the Irish Network Against Racism. Although Wright forgave O'Brien, he expressed disappointment in the outcome.
“Seeing this judgment, I can only wonder what deterrent there is for anyone else who spouts this kind of vile racist abuse," Wright, a retired player who won the Premier League with Arsenal, wrote on Twitter. “An individual wished death upon me because of my skin color. No judge’s claims of ‘naivety’ or ‘immaturity’ will ever be acceptable to us."
Although O'Brien won't spend time in prison over his messages, he's dealing with the consequences of his actions elsewhere after his permanent ban from FIFA games.
“We hugely value [Wright's] partnership and support, and we also want him to know he has our support," EA's FIFA brand vice president, David Jackson, told Eurogamer. "This behaviour by the player was unacceptable on every level, and we will not tolerate it. Our Positive Play Charter guides our actions in a situation like this, and we’ve taken the action to ban the player permanently from playing or accessing our games. Racism must stop. We are committed to continuing our work in positive play, through actions that will make our communities fun, fair, and safe for everyone.”
In his podcast, Wright praised EA for sending a message that "whether it's race, religion, sex, whatever, no discrimination will be tolerated."
Several UK-based soccer players have endured abuse and racism over Instagram. The service said last month that it will take "tougher action" over harassment in direct messages.