Oldham Athletic has reportedly pulled out of a deal to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans after a massive backlash against the League One club.
Oldham had been expected to announce it would sign the striker later today but the move triggered a change.org petition that became one of the fastest growing in the site's history, attracting a signature every second at one point.
Now, the club is set to become the latest to turn its back on Evans, according to reports.
A former player for the club said Evans' crime "will never go away" and said the he could not "survive, given the ferocity of football".
Rick Holden, who was a part of one of Oldham's greatest ever sides in 1990 when the club reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I'm not comfortable with it at all, it's one of those crimes that will never go away in my opinion.
"I don't see how the chap can survive actually, given the ferocity of football up and down the land, even if he did sign. I think it's untenable."
His old club, Sheffield United, withdrew an offer to allow him back to train after a similarly bad public reaction last year.
Mecca Bingo tweeted it would end its association with Oldham if Ched Evans were signed.
We can confirm will be ending our association with @OfficialOAFC if they sign Ched Evans.— Mecca (@MeccaBingo) January 5, 2015
Another club sponsor said it would be "out of the door" if Evans were signed.
Craig Verling, a director of Verlin Rainwater Solutions which sponsors a stand at Boundary Park, said: "The club know our stance and that is if they sign or allow Ched Evans to train we will be out of the door.
"We had a conversation with the club when they considered allowing Ched Evans to train with them six to eight weeks ago, and we were led to believe they had listened to the general input.
"But our sources have made it clear he will be training or signing for the club this week and it is not something we wish to be associated with."
Tweeters expressed amazement at how unprepared Oldham had appeared to be that signing Evans would be so controversial.
Quite amazing the owners of Oldham Athletic seem surprised at the backlash to the possibility of signing Ched Evans.— Daniel White (@danwhitepr) January 5, 2015
At exactly what point did the Oldham heirarchy think: "You know what? Ched Evans would be a good signing with no controversy whatsoever."— Mark Duffy (@DuffersSport) January 5, 2015
It had been reported that Oldham chairman Simon Corney favoured signing Evans but the team's manager Lee Johnson was against it.
Oldham was not available to comment on the reports.
The latest petition, which has earned 23,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, calls on Mr Corney not to sign Evans, who does "have the right to work" but not "in a role where he influences views about sexual violence," according to the campaign.
Evans, who previously played for Manchester City, was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, north Wales.
The player denied the offence, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.
Before Oldham withdrew its offer, Ed Miliband was asked about Evans, as the debate about whether the 26-year-old had a future in professional football intensified.
"Personally, if I was in their shoes, he hasn't shown remorse and I wouldn't take him on," Miliband told BBC Radio Manchester.
Opinion on social media was mixed, with some noting there have been other footballers who spent time in prison and returned to the pitch afterwards and questioning why the notion of rehabilitation was not being taken into account.
Luke McCormick killed two young kids while drink-driving. Is that more or less heinous than Ched Evans' crime?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 4, 2015
Controversial but really annoys me Ched Evans can't join a football club, so much for a democratic country that believes in rehabilitation— Jimmy (@jimmybignose) January 5, 2015
But others stressed that such a visible role would leave fans thinking "rapists are role models," and pointed out that Evans had not finished his sentence, many saying he had "served his time".
Did half of a 5-year sentence RT @je_mc2: So Ched Evans has already served time.— Mark Amaza (@amasonic) January 5, 2015
STILL A RAPISTJanuary 5, 2015
Suggest a correction
I don't want my son thinking rapists are role models. Do you? Petition asking Oldham not to sign Ched Evans here: https://t.co/IDaGe3jjR7— Jack Monroe (@MsJackMonroe) January 4, 2015