London (AFP) – Everton star Ross Barkley received an apology from The Sun tabloid newspaper on Saturday over a column that made “unfavourable comparisons” to a gorilla.
The newspaper printed the apology and said it had not been aware that the England midfielder’s grandfather was from Nigeria.
Columnist Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of The Sun, had also written that the only other people in Liverpool with Barkley’s income were drug dealers.
His comments earlier this month — which prompted Everton to bar the newspaper’s journalists — came after an incident in a Liverpool bar where a client punched Barkley.
The column was headlined “Here’s why they go ape at Ross” alongside pictures of Barkley and a gorilla.
The paper suspended MacKenzie and on Saturday apologised.
“On April 14 we published a piece in the Kelvin MacKenzie column about footballer Ross Barkley which made unfavourable comparisons between Mr Barkley and a gorilla,” said the apology printed on page five.
“At the time of publication the paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended.
“As soon as his background was drawn to our attention, the article was removed from online.
“We have been contacted by lawyers on behalf of Ross Barkley, who has made a formal complaint about the piece.
“The Sun has apologised for the offence caused by the piece.
“We would like to take this opportunity to apologise personally to Ross Barkley.”
The original article had prompted Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson to refer The Sun to the police and the Independent Press Standards Organisation, calling the comments “racist and offensive”.
MacKenzie said he had no idea of Barkley’s family background and added: “For the mayor of Liverpool and a handful of others to describe the article as racist is beyond parody.”
The Sun and MacKenzie were already deeply unpopular in Liverpool.
He was the editor in 1989 when it published allegations about the behaviour of Liverpool fans in the Hillsborough stadium disaster.
Last Saturday marked the 28th anniversary of the tragedy in which 96 Liverpool supporters died.
Liverpool FC banned The Sun from their Anfield stadium and their training ground in February this year over the paper’s coverage.
Many shops in the city also refuse to sell the newspaper.
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