James McClean has been fined two weeks wages and agreed to delete his Instagram account after appearing to make a joke regarding the Irish Repuclican Army, Stoke City have confirmed.
With social distancing measures in place in the United Kingdom amid the coronavirus pandemic, Stoke winger McClean uploaded a controversial post to his Instagram story.
Captioned "Today's school lesson - history", with a laughing emoji, the 30-year-old was pictured facing his children wearing a balaclava - imagery synonymous with the IRA. An online petition was started calling for Stoke to sack McClean for his actions.
A Stoke statement confirmed McClean's punishment and read:
"Stoke City can confirm that, following an internal disciplinary review, disciplinary action has been taken against James McClean for an inappropriate social media post.
"McClean has been fined two weeks’ wages by the Club and has also agreed to delete his Instagram account.
"The player has expressed contrition and recognises that the post was ill-advised and offensive.
“The Club and the player will be making no further comment on the matter."
McClean added: “I never wanted to cause any offence but I now realise that I did so and for that I apologise unreservedly.
“I have spoken to the club and will be deleting my Instagram account.”
The Republic of Ireland international has previously complained of “constant sectarian abuse” in English football and was booed by Stoke supporters last season for refusing to wear a poppy, the traditional symbol of Remembrance Sunday.
McClean, from Derry on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, has suggested wearing a poppy would represent “a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles - and Bloody Sunday especially”.
He added: “If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.
“I would wear it every day of the year if that was the thing but it doesn’t. It stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in. Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”