West Brom forward Jay Rodriguez says he is relieved after being cleared of a charge of alleged racial abuse.
Rodriguez was charged by the Football Association (FA) with using "abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race" towards Brighton and Hove Albion defender Gaetan Bong during a Premier League game in January.
But an independent regulatory commission found the accusation made against the England international could not be proven.
Bong said in a statement posted on Twitter he was "disappointed" with the verdict, but Rodriguez is glad to have cleared his name.
"It has been a difficult and strained period for me and my family because this allegation brought a serious and damaging slur on my character," Rodriguez said in a statement released via social media.
"It has been equally difficult to remain silent throughout the FA process, but I do wish to express firstly my relief that I have been exonerated and second my support for the fight against racism in whatever form it is expressed.
"I have maintained my innocence from the moment Gaetan Bong made the allegation. I bear him no ill will, but I was disappointed that he chose to publicly condemn me on the platforms of open media before the evidence had been presented to an independent tribunal.
"Now that I have been cleared, I would like to emphasise so there can be no doubt that I did not utter the words of which I was accused. I did not use any language that alluded to race and I can only repeat my view that Gaetan misheard our exchange during the game.
"I am grateful for all the colleagues and former managers and coaches who spoke up for me at the hearing. I would also like to thank West Bromwich Albion, my team-mates, the staff and the fans for the fantastic support they have offered me during this unpleasant process.
"Finally, I would like to underline my support for the continuing battle of any forms of discrimination. There is no place for it in any walk of life and I am relieved and pleased that after an exhaustive, thorough and fair process, I am cleared of this stain on my character and reputation."
Rodriguez scored the winner as West Brom boosted their slim Premier League survival hopes with a shock 1-0 win at Manchester United on Sunday, a result that saw Manchester City crowned champions.
25. April 2018
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24. April 2018
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