Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies has revealed a blatantly racist world view. The club and Tönnies have attempted to row back on the comments but there must be no way back in such cases, writes David Vorholt.
What Clemens Tönnies said about the African continent and its people at an event in Paderborn on Thursday have circulated far and wide. For those who don't know what Tönnies said, here are his words, which he later called "foolish": "Instead of increasing taxes, we should rather finance 20 power plants in Africa every year. Then Africans would stop cutting down trees and producing children when it's dark."
Such comments reveal openly and unequivocally deep-rooted racist views. Tönnies' unbelievable words were not uttered privately among friends, which would not excuse them either, but in a speech. They were deliberately chosen, there is no doubt about it. The 63-year-old was oblivious to one thing: the implications.
Sarpei demands consequences
That changed the day after: hastily written statements were first published by the club, then by Tönnies himself. These statements were of course labeled as an apology, but this couldn't be the case as the supposed "apology" was addressed to the members and supporters of Schalke 04, a group that should not be affected by Tönnies' statements. It was little more than a clumsy PR move.
Tönnies and Schalke themselves are therefore only aware of the devastating loss of reputation, rather than the real social significance of these words. The former Schalke player Hans Sarpei also states this clearly and unambiguously: "These are racist remarks that are in no way compatible with the mission statement of FC Schalke 04 or our modern open society. As a member and ex-player, I would like the Honorary Board to take a clear stand and discuss the consequences," Sarpei wrote on Facebook. Sarpei strikes the heart of the problem and identifies Tönnies' comments for what they are: premeditated racism.
Tönnies must resign
In his Facebook post, Sarpei calls for "consequences" but avoids the word resignation. I say: Tönnies' resignation is inevitable. The members of Schalke 04 and the general public can also demand his resignation immediately. Schalke's sports director Jochen Schneider may decide Tönnies deserves a second chance, but at the head of a club which, according to its own statutes, "actively opposes racist, constitutional and xenophobic efforts..." his position at the club is no longer tenable.
Tönnies consciously and deliberately trampled on these values of the association and human dignity. If he is interested in not destroying his reputation irrevocably and in fulfilling his responsibility as a representative of a Bundesliga club, he should not wait until the Schalke board fire him and resign. And in doing so, he should deliver a sincere apology.