The Sun has issued a printed apology to Everton and Ross Barkley over a controversial article in which the paper’s former editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, compared him to a gorilla after the player was subject to an attack in Liverpool city centre.
The paper “apologised for the offence caused” but said it had been unaware of Barkley’s heritage. The 23-year-old’s grandfather was born in Nigeria.
Mackenzie, the newspaper's editor between 1981 and 1994, made several other disparaging comments against Barkley and the city of Liverpool in his weekly Sun column.
In the article, published on 14 April, MacKenzie said looking at Barkley's eyes had given him a "similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo".
His eyes made him "certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home", he wrote.
The Sun was subsequently contacted by Barkley’s lawyers who made a formal complaint over the piece.
MacKenzie has since been suspended from his position as a Sun columnist while Everton joined city rivals Liverpool in banning the paper from their premises.
The Sun's apology, printed on page five of the paper today, said that as soon Barkley's background was drawn to its attention, the article was removed from online.
The paper has already condemned MacKenzie for the “wrong” and “unfunny” views and said he will be “fully investigated” on his return from holiday.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said on Friday that the former editor would be facing questions from the police over the article, describing it as a “racial slur… and something we won’t tolerate”.
A spokesman for Merseyside Police said its investigation was ongoing and officers would be speaking to relevant witnesses.
The Sun apology in full:
"On April 14 we published a piece in the Kelvin MacKenzie column about footballer Ross Barkley which made unfavourable comparisons between Mr Barkley and a gorilla.
"At the time of publication, the newspaper was unaware of Mr Barkley's heritage and there was never any slur intended.
"As soon as his background was drawn to our attention, the article was removed from online.
"We have been contacted by lawyers on behalf of Ross Barkley, who has made a formal complaint about the piece.
"The Sun has apologised for the offence caused by the piece.
"We would like to take this opportunity to apologise personally to Ross Barkley."
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