Barcelona strikers Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann have apologized for a 2019 video mocking hotel staff in Japan but denied their comments were racist. A video recorded by Dembele during Barcelona’s pre-season tournament in Japan ahead of the 2019-20 season was shared on social media and the two players laugh at a group of hotel workers working to repair a TV was shown.
“It came to our notice then. It could have happened anywhere on the planet and I would have used the same expression,” Dembele wrote on Instagram on Monday. “So, we are not targeting any community. I used this type of expression with my friends, whatever their origins. This video has since been made public. So, I appreciate that it could have hurt the people in these images. Because of this, I want to sincerely apologize.”
Watch the viral video here.
❗️Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé, in leaked video, appear to be mocking asian technicians in their hotel room who came to fix a technological issue, proceed to mock their looks, language and country's supposed "technological advance".
— +Barça (@plusbarca_) July 3, 2021
Griezmann said he was “absolutely against all forms of discrimination.” He wrote on Twitter, “In recent times, some people want to portray me as someone I am not. I strongly deny the allegations against me and I am sorry if I have offended any of my Japanese friends.”
Hiroshi Mikitani, executive director of Japan-based e-commerce conglomerate Rakuten Inc., which is one of Barcelona’s sponsors, said the couple’s comments were “unacceptable”. “With regard to discriminatory comments from FCB (Barcelona) players, I am deeply disappointed as the club’s sponsor and tournament organizer,” Mikitani wrote on Twitter.
“As Rakuten supports Barca’s vision and sponsors the club, we consider these comments unacceptable under any circumstances. We are officially protesting and looking for the club’s approach.” Dembele and Griezmann recently participated in Euro 2020 in France, where the world champions were knocked out by Switzerland after a shootout in the round of 16.