French Barcelona duo Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann have apologized for a Snapchat video from 2019 where they made fun of hotel staff in Japan but denied the comments were racist.
The video, recorded by Dembele during Barcelona’s pre-season tour of Japan ahead of the 2019-20 season, was leaked on social media and showed the two players laughing at a group of staff from the hotel working to fix a television.
“It all happened in Japan. It could have taken place anywhere on the planet and I would have used the same expression,” Dembele wrote on Instagram on Monday.
“So I wasn’t targeting any community. I just happened to use this type of expression with my friends regardless of their origins.
“This video has since been made public. So I appreciate that it may have hurt those in the footage. For that reason, I want to offer my sincere apologies.”
Griezmann said he was “totally against all forms of discrimination”.
“For the past few days, some people have wanted to paint me as someone I’m not,” he said on Twitter. “I strongly refute the charges against me and I am sorry if I have offended any of my Japanese friends.”
Hiroshi Mikitani, managing director of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc, which is one of Barcelona’s sponsors, said the couple’s comments were “unacceptable”.
“Regarding the discriminatory comments from FCB (Barcelona) players, I am very disappointed as the club sponsor and tour organizer,” Mikitani tweeted.
“As Rakuten endorsed Barca’s philosophy and sponsored the club, we find such comments unacceptable under any circumstances. We officially protest and seek the club’s opinion.”
Dembele and Griezmann recently played for France at Euro 2020, where the world champions were knocked out by Switzerland in the round of 16 after a shootout.