The chief executive officer of Barcelona’s main shirt sponsor said on Tuesday he wants an explanation from the club after attacker Ousmane Dembele apologised for making racist comments in a video circulating on social media.
Dembele, 24, offered his “sincere apologies” on Monday after a 42-second clip, which he appeared to have made on Snapchat in 2019, was leaked and widely shared on the internet.
It shows Dembele, on Barca’s preseason tour of Japan two years ago, talking to team-mate Antoine Griezmann who is waiting for local technicians to connect a game console to a television in their hotel room.
“As a sponsor of the club and the host of the tour, I very much regret the FCB players’ discriminative remarks. Rakuten has been a sponsor of the club, praising the philosophy of Barca,” the CEO of Japenese electronics company Rakuten Hiroshi Mikitani tweeted.
“Such remarks can never be acceptable under any circumstances. I will formally lodge our protest to the club and seek its view,” he added.
Since 2017, Rakuten pay €55 million ($64.96 million) a year to appear on the front of Barca’s jersey and have extended their deal to next season.
Dembele, who is recovering from surgery after injuring his knee in France’s second group game at Euro 2020, said he regretted the incident.
“Recently a private video dating from 2019 has been circulating on social media. As it happens it is in Japan – it could have been anywhere on the planet and I would have used the same expressions. I wasn’t targeting any community,” he said on Instagram.
“The video has now gone public – I understand how it could have impacted the people present in those images and as such I offer them my sincere apologies.”
Griezmann, who was also in hot water three years ago for appearing wearing blackface and dressed as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters for a party, said on Monday he had always opposed “all forms of discrimination.”
He also apologised and insisted: “I am sorry if I offended my Japanese friends.”