The German football association said Tönnies "convincingly showed that he was not a racist." But unlike his club Schalke, the DFB said Tönnies' comments on climate and African wood-burning and birth rates were racist.
The ethics committee of Germany's football association (the DFB) on Thursday announced the end of their racism probe into Schalke president Clemens Tönnies.
The DFB said that while comments he made were racist, they would not pursue further action against him. "Mr. Tönnies was able to convincingly show that he was not a racist during the in-depth hearing and questioning," the DFB said. It cited testimony from black former Schalke players with experience of Tönnies, as well as his work against racism in football and in charitable endeavors in Africa.
Schalke's board of directors had earlier said that Tönnies's comments violated its anti-discrimination policy. However, it "came to the conclusion that the allegation of racism is unfounded." Tönnies temporarily stepped down for a period of three months after the Schalke probe closed.
The DFB's findings were slightly more critical in this regard, saying that by a "typical understanding of language," Tönnies' words were racist: "His comments would have at least been suited to supporting racist ideologies in other areas," the DFB concluded. But it went on to note the regret Tönnies had since shown. "The way he distanced himself from his comments and his shock at [these comments] is credible to the commission."
Earlier this month, Tönnies told a crowd of more than 1,500 people in Paderborn that instead of boosting taxes to fight climate change, it would be better to finance 20 power plants a year in Africa.
"Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark," he said.
His comments were widely criticized in the media for its racist overtones.
The 63-year-old later apologized, saying he was "sorry for the comment on the large number of children in Africa."
"I am for an open and diverse society," he said.
At the German Cup match against fifth-division SV Drochtersen/Assel, Schalke fans urged Tönnies to leave the club, displaying red placards with his name on it behind a banner that read: "We're showing racism the red card."
ls/msh (dpa, SID, Reuters)