Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie suspended over Ross Barkley and Liverpool article
Inflammatory article about Barkley was published just a day before the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster
Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the newspaper after he expressed "wrong" and "unfunny" views about the people of Liverpool, News UK has said.
In an article on Friday, MacKenzie compared Barkley, who has a grandfather born in Nigeria, to a "gorilla".
MacKenzie also said that people with similar "pay packets" in Liverpool were "drug dealers".
A statement from News UK read: "The Sun's columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the paper with immediate effect. The views expressed by Kelvin MacKenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the the view of the paper.
"The Sun apologises for the offence caused. The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley's heritage and there was never any slur intended. Mr MacKenzie is currently on holiday and the matter will be investigated on his return."
Merseyside Police are investigating whether the comments constitute a "racial hate crime".
Earlier on Thursday the mayor of Liverpool called on Everton football club to ban Sun journalists from press conferences.
Liverpool football club banned reporters from the newspaper from attending matches at Anfield and press conferences at Melwood in February due to its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
The Sun were also refused any access to interviews with the players or manager Jurgen Klopp, with the decision understood to have been taken after club directors held talks with the families of those who died in the tragedy in 1989.
And now the mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has called for Everton to show unity with the Reds for the good of the city and follow the Anfield club’s lead.
On Twitter, he wrote: “Everton, your lack of action in banning the S*n from your press conferences is a smack in the face to our city. See below and act now #JFT96”.
He then attached a screen grab from a story written in the paper about midfielder Ross Barkley following his assault in a nightclub in the early hours of Monday morning.
The cutting read: “The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, his is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”
Sorry to share the Sun but it is important for people to see just how despicable the publshed Mackenzie article is. pic.twitter.com/5X0l9qlEQl— Joe Anderson (@mayor_anderson) April 14, 2017
It also carried a picture caption which read: “Something about the lack of reflection in Barkley’s eyes suggests while the lights are on there is definitely nobody at home.”
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The article caused particular uproar as it came on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster where 96 people lost their lives.
Burnley’s Liverpudlian midfielder Joey Barton called the comments “disgusting” and “an absolute disgrace”.
He wrote on Twitter: “Those comments about Ross Barkley, a young working class lad are disgusting. Then add in the fact he is mixed race! It's becomes outrageous.
“Everybody knows the authors relationship with the city. He simply has to be held accountable for these words. It's an absolute disgrace.
Those comments about Ross Barkley, a young working class lad are disgusting. Then add in the fact he is mixed race! It's becomes outrageous.— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) April 14, 2017
“It's not ok to say, 'He's a footballer who earns loads of money, so he should deal with it.' What's implied in that piece, is just wrong. It's 2017... #dontbuythes*n”
The Sun ran a story on the Hillsborough disaster on 19 April 1989, four days after the disaster with the headline “The Truth”, in which it carried accusations from an anonymous South Yorkshire policeman that Liverpool supporters had “picked pockets of victims”, “urinated on brave cops” and that some beat up a policeman giving the “kiss of life”.
The accusations have since been proven false, while a jury found in April last year that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed following a 27-year legal battle for justice, led by the families of those who died.
Belfast Telegraph Digital