- Konami has dropped soccer star Antoine Griezmann as a brand ambassador for the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game.
- Griezmann and teammate Ousmane Dembele have come under fire for a leaked video involving controversial comments about Japanese hotel staff.
- Griezmann was made a Yu-Gi-Oh! ambassador on June 10.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Japanese video game company Konami has dropped French soccer star Antoine Griezmann from a Yu-Gi-Oh! partnership, because of a controversial video featuring the Barcelona striker and teammate Ousmane Dembele.
The leaked video from 2019 shows Griezmann laughing in a hotel room as Dembele mocked the appearances of Japanese hotel workers trying to fix a television.
“All these ugly faces, just so you can play PES [Pro Evolution Soccer], my brother. Aren’t you ashamed?” Dembele appears to say to Griezmann while the latter grins. Dembele is also heard making fun of the Japanese language.
“Guys, are you technologically advanced in your country or not?” Dembele is heard saying in French.
The pair were on a pre-season tour in Japan with FC Barcelona at the time.
On Wednesday, Konami said it was sacking Griezmann as its Yu-Gi-Oh! contents ambassador “in light of recent events.”
“Konami Digital Entertainment believes, as is the philosophy of sports, that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable,” it said.
Griezmann was named an official ambassador of the card game by Konami on June 10, though the soccer player said in an interview that as a child he watched the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime instead and does not play the game much. The French star was even on track to have a Yu-Gi-Oh! card designed after him.
The CEO of FC Barcelona’s shirt sponsor Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani, also tweeted on Tuesday that Dembele’s remarks were “unacceptable.”
Mikitani wrote that Rakuten, which signed a $65 million per year contract with FC Barcelona in 2016, would “formally protest the club and seek their views.”
Players respond to backlash
Griezmann tweeted on Monday that he has “always been committed against any form of discrimination.”
“For the past few days, some people have wanted to pass me off as the man I am not. I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I am sorry if I could offend my Japanese friends,” he wrote.
He reportedly called Mikitani to make amends, but reiterated that he did not say anything in the leaked video, according to football news site Goal.com.
Dembele also apologized on an Instagram story on Monday, saying he did not intend to discriminate against any one particular group.
“It happens that it was a scene in Japan. It could have happened anywhere on the planet, and I would have still used the same wording,” he said.
-SPORTbible (@sportbible) July 6, 2021
FC Barcelona issued a statement and apology for the video, saying that Griezmann and Dembele both “displayed a lack of respect” toward the Japanese hotel staff.