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The Sun's apology about Hillsborough, 2004
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The Sun and its apology about Hillsborough

This is the ‘apology’ The Sun made in 2004 after a massive backlash from the people of Merseyside following Wayne Rooney’s decision to sell his story to that ‘paper’ for £250,000.

Rooney was a young Everton player at the time and fans of both clubs were outraged that it had happened, something that seemed to stem from a mixture of bad advice for Rooney and the calculated efforts of The Sun to win back the readers it had lost on Merseyside after the lies of 1989. Rooney left Everton for Manchester United shortly after.

Was this an apology or an attack? What about the opinions of the survivors who, remember, were the ones actually accused - falsely - of doing those unspeakable acts?

The Sun would continue to employ the editor responsible for the original article, Kelvin MacKenzie, who was reported in 2006 to have said the lies in 1989 were true.

The editor of The Sun in 2004 was Rebekah Wade, now a News International executive and better known as Rebekah Brooks, infamous in the wake of the closure of the News of the World following a multitude of hacking allegations against it.

Don't blame Rooney

7 July 2004

IT is 15 years since The Sun committed the most terrible mistake in its history.

By making grave and untrue allegations about the behaviour of Liverpool fans during the Hillsborough disaster, we enraged the city.

But more importantly, we tarnished the memory of 96 soccer fans who had tragically lost their lives.

And our carelessness and thoughtlessness following that blackest of days made the grief of their families and friends even harder to bear.

We long ago apologised publicly to the victims’ families, friends and to the city of Liverpool for our awful error.

We gladly repeat that apology today: fully, openly, honestly and without reservation.

If there was any way we could take back our erroneous words of 15 years ago, and by so doing ease the deep anguish we caused to so many people in mourning, we would do it.

But there isn’t. We can only hope that time will be the great healer.

Sadly, for some people in the city of Liverpool, forgetting — never mind forgiving — is impossible.

If they want to hate The Sun, then that is their right. We are hardly in a position to blame them.

What we find impossible to take, though, is the way some of Liverpool is turning its anger on one of the greatest footballing talents the city has ever seen.

Wayne Rooney is one of Liverpool’s finest sons.

At 18, he is the nation’s hero of Euro 2004 and has the potential to outscore England legends like Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton and Alan Shearer.

On Merseyside, his name should be the toast of every pub, street and school.

Instead, he is being vilified by some Liverpool and Everton fans.

We can understand the grief of those who lost loved ones at Hillsborough.

We do not condemn the outspoken words of men like John Glover or Phil Hammond, whose sons died in the tragedy, for their loss entitles them to hold any opinion they wish.

But the words of other fans leave us in despair.

Wayne Rooney was just three years old at the time of Hillsborough. He and his fiancee Coleen are devastated by this unfair backlash. He should not be punished in 2004 for a mistake The Sun made in 1989. Don’t visit our past sins on him.

One view on a Liverpool website is that by telling his life story in The Sun, Wayne has “signed his soul away to the devil.”

Another is that he has “accepted 30 pieces of silver.”

For goodness sake, give the lad a chance.

It’s not as if Wayne’s the first footballer from Merseyside to talk to The Sun.

We have enjoyed a good working relationship with many players and managers over the years.

And nearly all Liverpool-born celebrities regularly talk to Britain’s favourite daily newspaper.

What The Sun finds most depressing about what is going on in Liverpool is the way trouble is stirred up by the local papers, the Post and the Echo.

Who owns the Post and Echo?

None other than Trinity Mirror.

The same company that owns The Sun’s rival, the Daily Mirror.

The misery being inflicted on Wayne Rooney is a crude effort by them to make commercial gain.

We hope that the people of modern Liverpool, a city of spirit and sophistication, are not taken in.

A brilliant young athlete, a credit to his club, his city and his country, is being pilloried by the very people who should be hailing him a hero.

And The Sun of 2004 no more deserves to be hated on Merseyside than Wayne Rooney does.

For a start, most of today’s staff weren’t on The Sun in 1989 and today’s Editor was a 20-year-old student.

Many of the callers to BBC Radio Merseyside have acknowledged that fact.

Fifteen years is a long time.

It is 11 years longer than the First World War, nine years longer than the Second World War.

We cannot believe these protests properly represent the opinions of the majority of men and women in Liverpool.

No one will ever forget the terrible Hillsborough tragedy, nor those who died and their loved ones.

But trashing a young man of whom everyone should be proud is not the way to honour their memory.

It is time to move on.