Alan Sugar under fire over 'racist' Senegal World Cup team tweet

Peer apologises after comparing players to people selling bags and sunglasses on beaches in tweet BBC calls ‘seriously misjudged’

Alan Sugar has been criticised for posting a tweet about the Senegal World Cup squad that compared the players to people selling sunglasses and handbags on beaches.

The tweet featured a photoshopped picture of the team looking as though they were selling counterfeit goods. “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multitasking, resourceful chaps,” Lord Sugar said.

Lord Sugar’s controversial tweet featuring the Senegal squad.
Lord Sugar’s controversial tweet featuring the Senegal squad. Photograph: Twitter/Lord Sugar

After people criticised the tweet as being racist, Sugar responded by tweeting: “Why not it is meant to be funny … for god sake” and “I cant see what I have to apologise for … you are OTT … its a bloody joke.”

Osasu Obayiuwana, the British-Nigerian associate editor of New African magazine and contributor to the BBC’s World Football show, wrote: “Dear ⁦@Lord_Sugar⁩, I’m afraid no Senegalese or African will see this as funny. What you wrote was hurtful and plays to a racist stereotype. If you really don’t see what’s wrong with what you’ve written, you have a lot to learn still. You should know better!”

Sugar subsequently took down the image, saying: “Just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet about the guy on the beach in Marbella. Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people. Frankly I can’t see that, I think it’s funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.”

An hour and 20 minutes after posting the initial image, Sugar used Twitter to issue a further apology, stating: “I misjudged me [sic] earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.”

I misjudged me earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.

— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) June 20, 2018

The BBC’s press office responded by posting to social media “Lord Sugar has acknowledged this was a seriously misjudged tweet, and he’s in no doubt about our view on this. It’s right he’s apologised unreservedly.”

The incident comes at an awkward time for the BBC, for whom Sugar is the high-profile presenter of The Apprentice. On Wednesday, the corporation launched launched new diversity guidelines that introduce a rule to ensure black and minority ethnic candidates appear on shortlists for senior roles.

The consecutive statements make for an awkward juxtaposition in the BBC’s twitter timeline.

The BBC’s press office Twitter feed.
The BBC’s press office Twitter feed. Photograph: Twitter/BBC Press office

As well as Sugar’s role at the BBC, the tweet may also have repercussions for him in his parliamentary position. Labour MP Dawn Butler wrote on social media that she was “very troubled” by the tweet, saying that “Racism has no place in Parliament or society” and demanding that “swift action must be taken”. She promised to write to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards about it.

Very troubled after seeing @Lord_Sugar racist tweet. I will be writing to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and the @BBC calling for an immediate investigation. Racism has no place in Parliament or society. Swift action must be taken.

— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) June 20, 2018

Piara Powar, Executive Director of the Fare network, which has been working to raise awareness of racism, sexism and homophobia in Russia during the World Cup, said in a statement: “Alan Sugar has deliberately and with racist intent sought to demean a World Cup football team in the middle of a global celebration that Africans have as much a right to be a part of as any other continent. And as if words were not damaging enough he has illustrated the point with a graphic.”

“This ignorance and stereotyping of a whole race, a continent of over 1.3 billion people, is disgraceful. It is particularly damaging coming from a prominent public figure, a member of the House of Lords. It shows the attitudes that people continue to hold and how they see football as the space through which to air them.”

Earlier this year Sugar faced criticism for a tweet that pictured the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, alongside Adolf Hitler. In that incident, he later responded: “It’s a joke, but the angry brigade like to moan.”


Martin Belam

The GuardianTramp

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