The Sun newspaper has suspended its former editor and columnist Kelvin MacKenzie for comparing a mixed race footballer to “gorilla”, according to The Guardian. Police are also investigating whether his comments consitute a “racial hate crime.”
The footballer, Ross Barkley, is a midfielder for Everton FC, and has a grandfather who was born in Nigeria.
MacKenzie wrote that Barkley had been punched at a nightclub because he was like an animal in the zoo.
MacKenzie was also suspended for making “unfunny” comments about Liverpool, where Everton FC is located.
A spokesman for The Sun’s owner, News UK, said: “The views expressed by Kelvin MacKenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper. The Sun apologises for the offence caused. The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended. Mr MacKenzie is currently on holiday and the matter will be fully investigated on his return.”
Merseyside Police said they were investigating “the full circumstances”, according to the BBC.
According to The Guardian, MacKenzie has claimed he didn’t know about Barkley’s racial background.
This is what he wrote in his original column:
“Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers. There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home. I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.”
This passage has been deleted from the online version of MacKenzie’s column, but a Google image search still shows that The Sun created a composite image of Barkley next to a gorilla.
The Sun is the biggest newspaper in the UK by print sales. Along with its former editor, the publication has a tense relationship with Liverpool due to the newspaper’s coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. MacKenzie was editor at the time.
This is what MacKenzie said about the city, whose population hates The Sun so much that the newspaper is banned:
“The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and are therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”
The Hillsborough disaster was a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, where 96 fans died due to overcrowding. The Sun portrayed Liverpool fans as drunk and rowdy with the headline “The Truth”, but this was eventually proven not to be the case in an inquest last year. The Sun is boycotted by most newsagents in Liverpool.
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