Antoine Griezmann, a football player for France and Barcelona, has been kicked from his contract with Konami following a video that appears to show him and teammate Ousmane Dembele mocking the staff of a Japanese hotel.
Originally reported by ESPN, the 2019 Snapchat video was leaked to social media earlier this month and shows the pair of athletes “laughing at a group of technicians working to fix something in a hotel room,” according to ESPN.
In the wake of the video, Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten demanded an explanation and plan of action from Griezmann’s club FC Barcelona, which they sponsor. Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game publisher Konami followed suit by cancelling their contract with Griezmann on July 7th, including stripping him of his title as Yu-Gi-Oh’s official ambassador - an honor they bestowed less than a month ago.
“Konami Digital Entertainment believes, as is the philosophy of sports, that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable,” the statement reads. “Previously we had announced Antoine Griezmann as our Yu-Gi-Oh! contents ambassador, however in light of recent events we have decided to cancel the contract. With regard to our eFootball PES franchise, we will be requesting FC Barcelona as a club partner to explain the details of this case and its future actions.”
In the video, the teammates mock the hotel staff as they attempt to prepare a television in the room to allow Griezmann to play Pro Evolution Soccer, a video game published by Konami. “All these ugly faces, just so you can play PES, aren't you ashamed?" Dembele asks Griezmann before seemingly mocking the Japanese language. “Are you advanced in your country or not?"
Both players apologized publicly on July 5th but denied that their comments and ridicule should be characterized as racist. Griezmann tweeted his stance against racism and discrimination in any form, adding “I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I am sorry if I have offended my Japanese friends.”
Je me suis toujours engagé contre toute forme de discrimination. Depuis quelques jours certaines personnes veulent me faire passer pour l’homme que je ne suis pas. Je réfute avec fermeté les accusations qui me sont portées et je suis désolé si j’ai pu offenser mes amis japonais.— Antoine Griezmann (@AntoGriezmann) July 5, 2021
Barcelona’s statement went public June 7th and said the teammates actions “in no way coincides with the values that PF Barcelona represents and defends.” It apologized to the Club’s fans and partners - which include Konami and Rakuten - but did not specify whether Griezmann and Dembele would face any disciplinary repercussions.
Instead, it stated the club will work towards “improving its education on questions of race, discrimination and diversity” and stay “committed to making sure episodes of this nature do not repeat themselves.”