According to a national newspaper, BBC Sport Scotland have suspended Michael Stewart from his role with the organisation at least until the middle of next week.
Whether he lasts beyond that is still up in the air.
The corporation will presumably invite him in for a formal disciplinary at some point, at which time I believe he’ll be in a real fight to keep his job.
Michael Stewart made mistakes in his panel discussion on Monday night; I don’t think there’s a single person who disputes that.
But that he’s now battling to save his broadcasting career with them is as clear a demonstration that his main point was valid as you are likely to see, except for what is going on between Celtic and Sky Sports right now, which is an even greater example of it.
That vindicates Michael Stewart and his position, in full.
Let’s consider what Michael Stewart was talking about.
The show starts out by discussing the Morelos interview; that’s how the segment opens. Kenny McIntyre repeats the central thrust of the allegations without detailing them. This, of course, is the interview Celtic and others – and I include The Daily Record itself in this – have utterly trashed.
Stewart points out that Shay Logan was racially abused at the weekend.
This was his rebuttal to the idea that Morelos is somehow singled out.
It is factually correct. He went on to ask for the proof that Morelos has been the subject of racist abuse; actually there is very, very little of it out there. Even the players own public pronouncements don’t list a single example … except in Sky’s wholly fictitious transcript, which is the subject of our stand-off with them.
In spite of the hysteria of McIntyre and Broadfoot, Stewart has not crossed a line.
Should Celtic be seekings answers from the BBC over the lack of coverage of our Sky complaints?
He then asks the first of his pointed questions, and when you consider Celtic’s statement today, which confirms that the club believes Sky’s rewording to have been a deliberate act intended to harm our club, it is all the more apparent that it requires an answer.
“Why is it today that that story and the interview is being done?” he asks.
Listen to what he says afterwards; Stewart is suggesting that in his view the interview was arranged so as to deflect from the story which had emerged some days prior, about Morelos’ car “tampering” being the work of a private investigator.
Now, it must be said that some of the parties involved have refuted that; well they would, wouldn’t they?
We can take their denials with a pinch of salt.
The police themselves seem satisfied that there was no malicious intent, far less any criminal one.
Which means that broadly speaking they believe the mystery man’s story. I also hear – but can’t confirm – that he’s an Ibrox season ticket holder; there would vanish any possible involvement of an Unseen Fenian Hand behind all this.
Stewart’s concerns over where that story came from are wholly justified.
We should all be concerned about where it came from, and those concerns multiply when you consider what happened next.
Let’s timeline this so that it can be properly appreciated.
Gary Ralston’s notorious Morelos article suggests that there are people trying to force him out of the country. It read so much like a gushing fan-boy piece of nonsense I never stopped to consider whether or not there might be a darker motive behind it.
Yet a few weeks later, we get the lurid story involving his car, the tenor of which was that someone was trying to seriously injure or kill the player.
That’s what all the initial press reports suggested. Their flapping about it now and their attempts at deflection notwithstanding, that’s what those reports made out. That’s the spin that was put on all of them, and it’s right there in the words “sabotage” and “tampering” and especially in the Ralston-Jackson piece in The Record which ended with an inflammatory quote from a lunatic fan forum which made that suggestion quite explicit in case it wasn’t already clear.
There is no question whatsoever in my mind that the conclusion the outside world was supposed to reach was that this had been done by a follower of Celtic. The inference is strong. It does not require any editorialising or spelling it out. It was obvious.
And then that story unravelled in the most spectacular and unexpected way, with the person directly involved in it handing himself into the police and presenting his wonderful explanation. The irony here is that I believe part of the reason for the promotion of Morelos as a victim lies in somebody’s efforts to keep certain stories out of the public domain. The most unexpected, though least publicly apparent – for now anyway – consequence of using the car story to support that objective is that those stories are no longer solely in the private sphere.
With that story having collapsed and myriad questions suddenly arising from it, some of which Stewart asked – such as who put it out, who put such a dangerous spin on it and why? – its architects needed another, and it’s here that the lines start to blur.
We know that someone deliberately misrepresented Morelos in an effort to smear Celtic; the club itself has made it plain that it believes that was to have been the central objective. The story was then disseminated to the media with the focus on the racism claims.
Now that story too has collapsed, and although Stewart’s interview predates that, his suspicions about it and the wider media narrative around Morelos have been validated all the more. Celtic know that these stories are connected. I daresay they know a lot more.
Now Stewart himself has been suspended by the BBC, and you have to wonder if the pressure being put on him is less about his comments about Traynor but more about the way the media narrative is being guided by, as Stewart put it “people creating division for their own personal gain.”
And there is one enormous piece of supporting evidence for this theory.
For the second day in a row, the main story on every national outlet’s website is that Celtic has attacked Sky Sports in the most venomous terms for the way in which their edited Morelos interview smears our club. In today’s statement we have made it plain that we believe the intent to have been malicious. In any language, in any country, that is a mammoth news story.
The BBC has not mentioned Celtic’s statement of yesterday or the statement of today.
These are the statements which essentially destroy a smear job against our club, fronted by a media outlet. How is it that the national broadcaster deems that unworthy of mention far less examination? Who the Hell is running editorial over there? Can they explain this?
If the only outlet that people had was the BBC, the Sky Sports smear job would stand unrefuted. The BBC is the only outlet that still has articles on its site referring to the central allegation in Sky Sport’s original story, at the same time as it has ignored Celtic’s response.
Whose interests is the BBC serving here? Not Celtic’s, that’s for sure. Why aren’t they covering the biggest story in Scottish sport? If it was a story alleging that Celtic fans had behaved badly would it get the same treatment? Of course not.
Their decision not to discuss Celtic’s statement is highly suspect, and that’s the most generous language we can use. It stinks to high heaven, if we’re being blunt. It makes me wonder whether the decision to supress our statement and the decision to suspend Stewart are interrelated.
For sure, the stories Stewart highlighted are, as Celtic is well aware.
The BBC appears happy to report stories which make allegations against us, but will not report it when we refute those allegations.
You tell me what that sounds like.
On top of that, I’ve gone over the Stewart interview again – I’ll cover it in detail tomorrow – and can’t find any reason why the BBC would be justified in suspending him, and their decision to apologise to Traynor is even more egregious as I’ll also discuss.
It seems clear tonight that the BBC is part of the problem, and perhaps a bigger part of the problem than we had originally thought.
It is time Celtic got answers from them too.