Schalke chief Tönnies to temporarily step down amid racism row | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.08.2019
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Schalke chief Tönnies to temporarily step down amid racism row

Clemens Tönnies, head of Schalke's supervisory board, will temporarily step down after he was found to have broken anti-discrimination rules. But a club committee said his controversial comments on Africa weren't racist.

A meeting of Schalke's honorary board on Tuesday deemed that Tönnies' comments, made in front of about 1,600 people in Paderborn last week, went against the club's anti-discrimination policy but "came to the conclusion that the allegation of racism is unfounded."

While discussing potential tax increases to fight climate change, Tönnies told the Paderborn event that it woud 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.

Read more: Extremism expert: 'I was shocked by Tönnies' racist statement'

The comments were widely interpreted as racist and the 63-year-old later apologized both in a statement issued by Schalke and on Twitter, where he said: "I am for an open and diverse society. I am sorry for the comment on the large number of children in Africa.

"I am 1,000 percent behind our club values. This includes the fight against racism, discrimination and exclusion. On the basis of that I expressly wish to excuse myself. It was wrong, rash and thoughtless and in no way in line with our values. I am very sorry."

Tönnies is to relinquish his duties as Schalke's supervisory board chairman for a period of three months, after which he is expected to return, according to a statement put out by the club on Tuesday evening.

'Values are Schalke's greatest asset'

On Wednesday, Schalke released a statement saying that it would "not allow the reputation of the club to be reduced to one discriminatory statement."

"We are aware of the damage that the club has suffered in the last few days," the statement read. "We will work more intensely to make it clear inside and outside the club that Schalke stands for the values of a tolerant, free and multicultural society."

The club called on "the members, fans and leadership to focus on the essential: the club." 

"We stress that we are always, everywhere and at all times against racism and every other form of discrimination. The club's values are its greatest asset and stand above anything and everything."

dv, mp/mf (dpa, SID)

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