Rakuten CEO and founder Hiroshi Mikitani has branded Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann’s behaviour “unacceptable” after a video emerged online of the pair mocking Asian staff at a hotel in 2019.
The two Barcelona players have been widely criticized after the footage emerged and yesterday issued apologies for any offense caused.
Mikitani has now taken to Twitter to express his views on the incident and says he plans to speak to the club about the two players. Rakuten has been a major sponsor of the club since 2016 and will continue to sponsor the shirts next season.
“As a sponsor of the club and organiser of this tournament, I am really sorry that the Barcelona players made discriminatory remarks.
“Especially as Rakuten has approved of the Barcelona philosophy and is a sponsor of the club, these sorts of remarks are unacceptable in all circumstances and we will protest officially against the club, as we wait to hear their position on the matter.”
Griezmann denied accusations of racism in his apology on Twitter. The 30-year-old wrote, “I have always been completely against all forms of discrimination. For the past few days, certain people have wanted to paint me as someone that I am not. I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I’m sorry if I have offended any of my Japanese friends.”
Dembele also offered an explanation on Instagram.
“Hello all, during these last few days, a private video dating back to 2019 has been circulating on social media. It all took place in Japan. It could’ve taken place anywhere on the planet and I would’ve used the same expression.
“I was therefore not targetting 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. I appreciate therefore that it could’ve hurt the people present in these images. Because of this, I would like to sincerely apologise to them.”
Barcelona have not yet made any comment on the matter.