Kelvin MacKenzie suspended from The Sun after 'racist' column on Everton footballer

Furore comes after tabloid's former editor said the only people with similar pay packets to professional footballers in Liverpool were drug dealers

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The Independent Online

The Sun's columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the paper amid claims he made "racist" comments about Everton footballer Ross Barkley.

Mr MacKenzie expressed “wrong” and “unfunny” views about the people of Liverpool in article published on Friday, News UK said, as it confirmed his suspension.

The column, by the newspaper’s former editor, made a number of disparaging comments against mixed-race midfielder Ross Barkley and the city of Liverpool.

The footballer was punched in a bar in Liverpool city centre last week.

In the piece, which was about the incident, Mr Mackenzie wrote that Mr Barkley, whose grandfather was born in Nigeria, was “thick” and said that when he saw him he gets “a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo”.

He also said that the only other people with “similar pay packets” in Liverpool were “drug dealers”.

On The Sun website the article was put up with a picture of Mr Barkley captioned: “Could Everton's Ross Barkley represent the missing link between man and beast?”

The article has now been removed from the paper's website.

A News UK spokesman said: “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 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 fully investigated on his return.”

But Mr MacKenzie has responded to say he did not know of footballer Ross Barkley's family background and added that it was “beyond parody” for critics to describe his article as “racist”. 

Merseyside Police issued a statement that said they “can confirm that we have received an online complaint from a member of the public alleging that comments written about a third party constitute a racial hate crime.

“Enquiries are now being carried out to establish the full circumstances of the incident.

“We take all allegations of hate crime extremely seriously and would encourage anyone who feels they have been the victim of a hate crime or who has witnessed one to contact us.”

Hillsborough

Mr MacKenzie is already a disdained figure in Liverpool as it was under his editorship of The Sun that the paper claimed Liverpool Football Club fans were to blame for the crush at the Hillsborough stadium in 1989 in which 96 people were killed.

The move prompted a widespread boycott of the paper in Liverpool that is still observed by many.

Last year an inquest into the disaster found the spectators had been unlawfully killed due to inadequate policing.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has called on Everton Football Club to also boycott The Sun, along with Liverpool FC supporters. 

Speaking to BBC Sport, Mr Anderson said: “Not only is it racist in a sense that he is of mixed-race descent, equally it's a racial stereotype of Liverpool. It is racist and prehistoric.”

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