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Antoine Griezmann: Konami drops contract with footballer over hotel video

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By Matthew Holroyd
Antoine Griezmann (L) and Ousmane Dembele have both apologised for the video.
Antoine Griezmann (L) and Ousmane Dembele have both apologised for the video.   -   Copyright  Matthias Hangst/Pool via AP -- AP Photo/Thibault Camus, FILE
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Konami has dropped its contract with French footballer Antoine Griezmann over a video that appeared to mock Japanese hotel staff.

Footage published on Friday showed Griezmann laughing as his teammate Ousmane Dembélé commented on the appearance and language of Japanese workers in 2019.

The video, filmed by Dembélé, was uploaded by a semi-anonymous YouTube account and has resulted in a strong backlash against the footballers.

Social media posts including the video and the hashtag #StopAsianHate have been retweeted thousands of times.

On Wednesday, the Japanese video games company Konami said they had decided to break its ambassador contract with Griezmann over the video.

"We had announced that Antoine Griezmann would be our Yu-Gi-Oh! ambassador, but in light of recent events, we have decided to cancel the contract," the company said.

"Discrimination in any form is unacceptable," they added in a statement.

Konami, makers of the popular football video game, Pro evolution soccer (PES), have also asked the players' club Barcelona "to explain the details of this case and future actions."

The Japanese online retail giant Rakuten, who are the shirt sponsor of Barcelona, has also protested against the video.

"As a partner of the club and host of the tour, I very much regret the discriminatory remarks of Barcelona players," tweeted Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO and founder of Rakuten.

"Rakuten has been a sponsor of the club praising the Barca philosophy. Such remarks are not acceptable under any circumstances. I will officially protest to the club and ask for an explanation."

In the video, Dembélé can be seen calling out Griezmann while technicians work on a television set in the pair's hotel room during a Barcelona tour to Japan.

Dembélé can be heard joking about the staff's looks and language as Griezmann looks on, amused but silent. Both players have since apologised for the footage.

"I have always been against any form of discrimination (...) I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I am sorry if I offended my Japanese friends," Griezmann said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Dembélé has apologised, saying that it was a "private video" and that he was "not targeting any community".

"I understand that I may have hurt the people in that image and for that, I sincerely apologise," he added.

In a statement on their website, the Spanish club also released an apology and said the player's actions did not represent them.

"FC Barcelona deeply regrets the displeasure amongst Japanese and Asian fans and partners of our Club caused by a video that appeared a few days ago on social media."

"Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann displayed a lack of respect in their attitude towards several employees in the hotel in which they were staying."

"This attitude in no way coincides with the values that FC Barcelona represents and defends."

Barcelona added that all members of staff should protect the club's values and said they were committed to tackling discrimination.

"At FC Barcelona there is no place for racism or discrimination," the statement added.

"[We] would like to apologise publicly to all the Club’s fans and partners who feel unhappy about this event from the summer of 2019."

"The Board of Directors that today manage the Club are committed to making sure episodes of this nature do not repeat themselves."

Barcelona said that the matter would be dealt with "internally" and that "appropriate" measures may be taken.

Griezmann has previously drawn criticism in 2017 after posting a photo of himself in "blackface", while dressed as a basketball player.

In December, the footballer also generated headlines by breaking off his partnership with the Chinese company Huawei, citing "strong suspicions" that the mobile giant was involved in the surveillance of the Uyghur Muslim minority. Huawei has denied the allegations.

Additional sources • AFP