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Lehmann sacked by Hertha over 'racist' message

May 5, 2021

Former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has been sacked by Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin after a message to former player Dennis Aogo was made public. Lehmann apologized for asking if Aogo was a "token Black guy."

Jens Lehmann
Jens Lehmann won 61 caps for GermanyImage: picture-alliance/augenklick/firo Sportphoto

Former Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has been relieved of his duties as a member of Hertha Berlin's supervisory board less than a year after joining the club. 

The decision comes after former Germany international Dennis Aogo posted a message which Lehmann sent to him, seemingly in error, after Aogo had worked as a pundit on Sky Germany for Tuesday's Champions League match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

"Is Dennis actually your token Black guy?" read the WhatsApp message published by Aogo on Instagram, along with a smiley face. Aogo added his own text, reading: "WOW, are you serious Jens Lehmann? I guess the message wasn't meant for me!!!."

Lehmann said on Wednesday morning that he had apologized to Aogo over the phone.

"In a private message from my cell phone to Dennis Aogo, an impression was created for which I apologized in conversation with Dennis," Lehmann tweeted. "As a former international, he is very knowledgeable and has a great presence and brings Sky ratings."

No longer welcome at Sky

Lehmann has also worked for Sky but, on Wednesday, the broadcaster said they would not be inviting him back in future.

"Dennis Aogo is a highly regarded colleague and an excellent expert and we’re very glad to have him in our team. At Sky, we condemn all forms of racism and give it no room and no platform," said a statement attributed to Sky Sports boss Charly Classen.

"We often had Jens Lehmann as a guest on our shows. We're very disappointed about his conduct and no longer plan to invite him to take part in our broadcasts."

Lehmann's apology was also not enough for Hertha, who had taken the 51-year-old on both as a member of the supervisory board and in a consultancy role after Jürgen Klinsmann left the club last year.

A official communication, posted on the club's website, saw Hertha condemn what they described as Lehmann's "racist remarks."

"Such statements are in no way representative of the values that Hertha BSC stands for," said club president Werner Gegenbauer through the club's official Twitter account. "We distance ourselves from all forms of racism and welcome the action taken by TENNOR Holding [the holding company, which holds 49.9 per cent of Hertha shares]."

Jimmy Hartwig, an ambassador for the German football association (DFB), who won the European Cup with Hamburg and was one of the first Black players in German football condemned the "racist WhatsApp message" and praised Hertha's quick reaction.

Dennis Aogo in action for Stuttgart against Hertha Berlin in 2019
Dennis Aogo in action for Stuttgart against Hertha Berlin in 2019Image: picture-alliance/R.Rudel

"It is incomprehensible to me that an outstanding goalkeeper like Jens Lehmann speaks of 'token blacks'," Hartwig wrote on Facebook in a message shared by the DFB on Twitter. "It's not just the language that is appalling, but also the thinking behind it."

Hertha Berlin: More money, more problems

Hertha sacked goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry last month after the Hungarian made controversial comments regarding immigration and homosexuality in a newspaper interview. The club have also had a significant COVID-19 outbreak recently and are facing a backlog of games in their bid to stay in the top flight.