Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, took an online kicking Wednesday for tweeting a picture of himself grinning in a wheelchair and wearing a bathing suit to pay homage to Stephen Hawking.
A brilliant British astrophysicist, Hawking died earlier Wednesday after spending most of his life confined to a wheelchair by motor neurone disease. He was 76.
Neymar, who faces just a few weeks in a wheelchair after breaking his right foot while playing for Paris Saint-Germain, posted his picture along with an inspirational quote from the science icon.
The backlash against the Brazilian striker was quick.
“It’s the height of self-centeredness to put Hawking’s death in terms of yourself,” tweeted Sports Illustrated reporter Grant Wahl. “Neymar’s temporary wheelchair situation is profoundly minor compared to the lifetime wheelchair situation Hawking had. I’m sure Neymar meant no harm, but come on.”
“No ethics no morals no sympathy!” angrily tweeted one sports fan, who added that he hoped Neymar loses “all his money.”
On the SBNation sports website, senior editor Nate Scott wrote: “Neymar heard a famous man died today who happened to spend much of his life in a wheelchair.”
Neymar must have been thinking, Scott continued, “I, famed soccer player Neymar, am also at this very moment in a wheelchair. This man’s life can thus be connected to the life that is currently being led by me, famed soccer player Neymar.”
Along with the picture, in which he grins and shows off his slender, heavily tattooed body, Neymar posted one of Hawking’s famous quotes: “One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in.”
Neymar transferred to PSG from Barcelona after the French club paid his 222 million-euro ($264 million) buyout clause last August.
The 26-year-old fractured a bone in his right foot on February 25 and his surgeon said he might be out of action for up to three months, although he’d be back on his feet well before.