Konami Fires Soccer Star After Racism Controversy

Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann warming up for a match at Euro 2020
Photo: FRANCK FIFE (Getty Images)

Last month, Barcelona and France star Antoine Griezmann was announced as a global ambassador for Yu-Gi-Oh! He’s now been dropped from that role after a video emerged of a teammate saying some pretty bad shit to their Japanese hotel staff.

The video, which you can see below, was filmed during Barcelona’s 2019 tour of Japan, and shows Griezmann and his teammate Ousmane Dembele chilling in their room as employees of the hotel they’re staying in struggle to…get their TV working so they can play some of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer.

While they wait, Dembele can he heard to mock the staff, saying they had “ugly faces”, then asking in French” are you technologically advanced in your country or not”, while Griezmann laughs.

The video’s emergence this week has caused a huge controversy at Barcelona, not simply for the accusations that Dembele’s comments were racist (and that Griezmann was complicit with his laughter) but also because Barcelona’s biggest sponsor is Rakuten, the Japanese auction and retail giant.

Rakuten’s CEO Hiroshi Mikitani demanded an apology from Barcelona, calling the video “unacceptable”, and after the pair issued individual apologies, Barcelona’s response was to…basically blame the club’s board at the time (which has now been replaced) and say “The players have already shown their regret and have apologised to Japanese fans and partners, something that the Club values. Nevertheless, FC Barcelona reserve the right to take the internal measures that it considers appropriate.”

Despite Griezmann’s apology, Konami has taken further action by dumping him as an ambassador for Yu-Gi-Oh!, telling ESPN “Konami Digital Entertainment believes, as is the philosophy of sports, that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. We had announced Griezmann as our Yu-Gi-Oh! content ambassador, however in light of recent events we have decided to cancel the contract.”

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