Police have said they are investigating vile abusive messages on Twitter aimed at Jessica Ennis-Hill after she said she would want her name removed from a stand at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane ground if rapist Ched Evans was re-signed.
Ennis-Hill issued a statement last night saying she would want her name removed from a stand at the football club's Bramall Lane ground if the League One club welcomed the Welsh international back following his conviction for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room.
But today, South Yorkshire Police said: "South Yorkshire Police can confirm they are investigating reports of abusive tweets.
"Officers are making efforts to contact the individual concerned, but have launched an investigation into the posts."
One tweet from @RickieLambert07 read: “Jessica Ennis-Hill is a stupid cunt. Saying she will remove her name if Ched Evens [sic] is signed. I hope he rapes her.” Both the tweet and account have since been deleted.
After the troll was called “scum” for his threat, he replied: “Freedom of speech mate … I’ll say what I want when I want!”.
Another troll, going by the handle @CoreyOC21, tweeted: “Hope Ched Evans gets you you little slut.”
Sheffield-born Ennis is the latest to wade into the row over the prospect of Evans's return to professional football.
Campaigners against sexual violence have criticised the club's decision to allow the 25-year-old to train with the team to regain fitness.
TV presenter Charlie Webster, Sixties pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all resigned as patrons of the club since Evans returned to training.
Today, David Cameron said he understood how Ennis-Hill had come to her decision. Speaking at the G20 summit in Brisbane, the prime minister said: “I quite understand why she’s said what she’s said and done what’s she done.”
A Downing Street spokeswoman added: “The prime minister had previously pointed out that football players should regard themselves as role models and was sure Sheffield United would consider carefully before making any decision.”
Ennis-Hill, the Olympic heptathlon champion, yesterday told Sky Sports News: "I believe being a role model to young people is a huge honour and those in positions of influence in communities should respect the role they play in young people's lives and set a good example. If Evans was to be re-signed by the club, it would completely contradict these beliefs."
The renamed Jessica Ennis Stand at Bramall Lane, Sheffield
United renamed one of its stands at Bramall Lane after the athlete following her gold medal victory at London 2012. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a Sheffield MP, said earlier that if it was his decision, he would not have let the 25-year-old footballer train with the team's players to return to fitness.
Jessica Ennis-Hill knows she'll get vile abuse from scared little men hiding behind their keyboards but takes a stance nonetheless. Respect.
— Jason (@NickMotown) November 13, 2014
But Mr Clegg indicated that he believed the Welsh international should be allowed to resume his career, possibly with a foreign side. He said Evans's position as a role model meant the the club should think "long and hard" before deciding whether to allow him to return to the Blades.
Jess Ennis-Hill was always a class act. She clearly still is
— Giles Dilnot (@reporterboy) November 13, 2014
Mr Clegg said: "Footballers are not just any old employee, they are obviously athletes but they are role models and a lot of kids look up to them. This is an incredibly serious offence, a very serious offence for which he has been convicted and that's what sets this apart." He told LBC Radio: "If it was me, I wouldn't take him on."
Suspect Jess Ennis' intervention on the Ched Evans debate will prove somewhat decisive
— Dan Roan (@danroan) November 13, 2014
Asked if he would let Evans train, Mr Clegg said: "I wouldn't, me, personally, Nick Clegg, because ... football stars play such an important role in the community where their clubs are supported, they are looked up to as role models. I wouldn't, but the reason I have constantly said the football club has got to think long and hard about this is I also want to protect the football club's right to take their own decisions.
Ennis-Hill is the current Olympic heptathlon champion
"If it was entirely for me, just because of the status of football stars, I wouldn't." But the Sheffield Hallam MP added: "He maybe could play for a club abroad for a while before coming back." The Deputy Prime Minister said: "The point is he played for Sheffield United when the offence took place and when he was convicted, so there is a very particular decision for the club that had him on their books when he committed that offence.
Everyone is being so harsh to Ched Evans. Everyone deserves a 2nd chance and he was young and made a mistake. Jessica Ennis went to far.
— #AlexisArmy (@HarryBlake69) November 13, 2014
"Of course, people need to move on in their lives and of course when you have done your time, you have done your time. I think there's a very specific responsibility for the employer that employed him at the time he committed the offence and, given that he is a role model, as I know as a Sheffield MP, in the community for United supporters."
Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central and a United shareholder, added taking back “an unrepentant convicted rapist” would send “a disturbing message to young people and victims of sexual violence about how we view rape”.
The head of the Football Association was left red-faced and floundering after a Newsnight grilling yesterday on whether the convicted rapist should return to football, saying it is "not clear cut".
While FA chairman Greg Dyke refused to give his own view on the issue, he said there is a "straightforward question" that needs to be answered.
He told BBC2's Newsnight: "Here's the straightforward question - are people who go to prison entitled to come out of prison and to try and rebuild their lives or aren't they?
"Or is what they've done so bad and because they're in an industry where their image is important - and that's the dilemma and it's not clear cut."