Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe expressed his dismay and sadness at a Sheffield Wednesday supporter who mocked the death of Bradley Lowery, the young Sunderland mascot who lost his battle with cancer in 2017. Dale Houghton, 31, taunted opposition fans during a match between Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday by displaying an image of Bradley Lowery. Houghton pleaded guilty to a public order offence at Sheffield magistrates on Monday.
Jermain Defoe had formed a close bond with Bradley Lowery, whom he referred to as his “best mate” prior to his passing. Bradley had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, at just 18 months old. Jermain Defoe described Bradley as “one of the most inspirational children this world has ever seen” and expressed his continued admiration for him.
The incident was brought to attention through pictures circulating on social media, showing two men laughing at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. Houghton was seen holding up a photo of Bradley on his phone during the match. Following Houghton’s appearance in court, Jermain Defoe expressed his appall and sadness, stating his thoughts are with Bradley’s parents, Gemma and Carl, who should not have to endure such incidents.
Jermain Defoe also encouraged the public to stand behind Bradley’s family and continue supporting the Bradley Lowery Foundation, which was created in memory of the inspirational child. In response to the incident, Sheffield Wednesday fans have raised over £22,500 through an appeal to support the charity. Leanne Wood, from Sheffield Wednesday Women‘s Supporters’ Group, initiated the fundraising effort after being “absolutely disgusted” by Houghton’s actions.
Bradley Lowery’s mother expressed her gratitude for the overwhelming support and described Houghton’s actions as unforgivable and extremely upsetting for the family. Dale Houghton is scheduled to be sentenced on 17 November and may face a possible jail term.