Japanese electronic giants Rakuten launch ‘official protest’ against Barcelona in the wake of leaked video from 2019 showing Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann mocking Asian technicians in a hotel… as sponsors’ co-founder insists it is ‘unacceptable’
- A leaked video from 2019 emerged of Ousmane Dembele mocking Asian staff
- Technicians were fixing TV while Dembele mocked their looks and language
- Antoine Griezmann also appeared in the video and both players apologized
- Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani – sponsor of Barcelona, is furious about it
The co-founder of one of Barcelona’s major sponsors has branded the behaviour of Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann ‘unnacceptable’.
A leaked social media video, filmed in 2019, appeared to show Dembele mocking Asian technicians’ background and appearance, and Griezmann appeared in the clip grinning.
Both players have issued apologies but Hiroshi Mikitani, co-founder of Rakuten, one of Barcelona’s sponsors, hit out at the pair in a statement on Twitter.
Hiroshi Mikitani, co-founder of Rakuten, said he will ‘officially protest’ to Barcelona
Ousmane Dembele (right) and Antoine Griezmann are in hot water for the 2019 video
Griezmann appears in the leaked clip and both players apologised for any offence caused
He wrote: ‘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.’
It is understood that the technicians were fixing a problem in the hotel room and three men were in conversation around a television screen.
It is thought to be Dembele, who can be heard in the video telling Griezmann: ‘All these ugly faces, just so you can play PES [Pro Evolution Soccer], aren’t you ashamed?’
Then Dembele adds: ‘What kind of backward language is that?’ and ‘Are you technologically advanced in your country or not?’
Dembele is heard saying ‘All these ugly faces, just so you can play PES [Pro Evolution Soccer], aren’t you ashamed? Before adding: ‘What kind of backward language is that?’
On Monday, Dembele wrote in a statement: ‘Recently, a private video from 2019 has been circulating on social networks.
‘The scene happens to be in Japan. It could have taken place anywhere on the planet, I would have used the same expressions.
‘So I wasn’t targeting any community. I sometimes use these kinds of expressions in private, with friends, regardless of their origin.’
Dembele added: ‘This video is now public. I can therefore imagine that it could have offended the people present in these images. Therefore, I offer them my most sincere apologies.’
Griezmann, meanwhile, was also quick to issue an apology on Twitter, writing: ‘I have been committed against any form of discrimination. For the past few days, some people have wanted to pass me off as the man I am not.
The Barcelona pair played for their country at the Euros this summer though Dembele’s tournament ended early due to injury
‘I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I am sorry if I [offended] my Japanese friends.’
Dembele is believed to have recorded the video and therefore only his legs can be seen, while Griezmann is recorded saying something inaudible at the start, but is then only seen laughing.
Griezmann, 30, is known to be a huge fan of the Pro Evolution Soccer games, having posted a sensational team he had assembled online a couple of years ago.
This is not the first time Griezmann has been caught up in a racism storm, having caused outrage on social media in 2017 after posting a photograph of himself in blackface as part of a fancy dress costume.
Griezmann was caught up in a race storm after posing for a photo in blackface back in 2017
The Barcelona and France pair are known to be good friends and are often seen joking around at training sessions for club and country.
The duo were involved for the world champions at the Euros, but Dembele’s tournament was cut short due to a knee injury suffered in the group stages against Hungary.
France then crashed out against Switzerland on penalties in a shock elimination in the round of 16.