Africa: Racism Row – Chairman of German Football Club Schalke to Step Down

Clemens Tönnies at a game between Schweinfurt and Schalke in August 2018.

Cape Town — The head of the supervisory board of German football club, Clemens Tönnies, is to temporarily step down after he was found to have broken anti-discrimination rules, Deutsche Welle reports.

A meeting of Schalke’s honorary board on Tuesday deemed that comments made by Tönnies at an event in Paderborn recently 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 was 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.

The comments were widely interpreted as racist and Tönnies 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.”

Tönnies will step down from his position on the board for three months at which point he is expected to return, according to a statement put out by the club on Tuesday evening, Deutshe Welle says.

CNN reports that Germany’s Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht has led calls for Tönnies’ comments to be punished.

Schalke start their Bundesliga season on August 17.