The Daily Mirror's football Twitter feed landed itself in a spot of bother yesterday when it seemed to unwittingly mock a small three-year-old boy battling a serious illness.
George Johnson, who is fighting a rare motility condition which renders him unable to eat, drink or swallow properly, was a mascot for Sunderland for their game against Everton yesterday.
The three-year-old, who has spent much of his life in Great Ormond Street Children's hospital, took to the pitch wearing a backpack which contained equipment required to feed him via a tube in his heart.
Seemingly unaware of his condition, @MirrorFootball, which has almost 270,000 followers and is known for its irreverent take on the game, first tweeted during Match of the Day on Thursday evening: "A mascot with a backpack on. What is happening to the game we love?"
The next message posted by the feed read: "#againstmodernmascots #againstmodernbackpacks #MOTD"
The Mirror swiftly deleted the messages, but not before members of George's family saw them.
A statement on the "Team George" Facebook page read: "After such a fantastic time yesterday and a huge day for our little boy I'm appalled, disgusted and greatly saddened by the ignorant comments that were made on twitter last night by Mirror Football about George wearing a backpack whilst he was on the pitch being mascot.
"His first tweet states - 'a mascot with a backpack on. What is happening to the game we love #matchoftheday.
"He then went on to tweet #againstmodernmascots #againstmodernbackpacks #MOTD
"After family members saw this tweet they got in touch with the mirror to explain exactly why George was wearing this and he has no removed the tweets.
"But the damage has been done - our little boy despite the struggles he goes through and the confidence issues he has as he gets older and realises his differences ran on to that pitch as proud and as confident as he can be and had a smile on his face all day and was even more thrilled to see himself on match of the day last night.
"We sometimes see ignorant comments on here about George's backpack or water or dummies and we try and remain as polite as possible and ask people to read about George and his condition first before they post comments.
"But I'm sorry I can't let this one lay - a newspaper with as many followers and readers as the mirror has should ensure they employ journalists who do their research first before they comment on individual situations.
"Mirror football hang your head in shame - please feel free to let them know your thoughts on this if has made you as upset and angry as it has us."
Mirror Football has since offered an apology for their tweets. A series of messages posted this morning read: "Dear @_TeamGeorge We wish to make a full and public apology for the twitter comment last night.
"Clearly we we're [sic] not aware of the situation, and would never intend to offend a brave young man fighting an illness. We are now dealing with a member of the family about this privately."
Sunderland claimed a remarkable 1-0 win over high-flying Everton at Goodison Park.
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