The racism scandal over FC Schalke’s boss Clemens Tönnies’ remark on reducing the birth rate in Africa by means of power plants reached a new level when a member of the German government weighed in. Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, representing the Social Democrats, sharply criticised Tönnies, newspapers of the Funke Media Group report. She said that “anyone who spreads blatant racism goes against hundreds of thousands of football fans” and noted that “the overwhelming majority clearly stands for humanity and tolerance". The minister called on the German Football Association (DFB) to deal with the incident.
"We have to make it very clear: we are not letting this split us. Racism has to be loudly and clearly battled everywhere: on social networks, in clubs, at the workplace and on the football field. Integration advances in sports faster than anywhere else. No one is allowed to pose a threat to it", she said.
As the newspaper Neue Westfälische reported earlier, Tönnies, who also owns German food producers, was a keynote speaker at an industrial event and criticised tax increases designed to combat the climate change. He suggested that it would be better to fund the construction of 20 power plants in Africa every year.
“Then, the Africans would stop cutting down trees and they will stop making children when it's dark", Tönnies said, prompting public outrage and racism accusations.
He later apologised for his remark and called it "foolish". However, he now faces consequences from the German football body. The Ethics Committee of the German Football Association is set to discuss the incident during its next meeting on 15 August, its head Nikolaus Schneider told the German news agency DPA. According to the official, they will evaluate his apology.
However, the Committee cannot take any actions, as it is up to the DFB to make a decision. League President Reinhard Rauball has already criticised Tönnies, telling the DPA that one “cannot let this pass". He also took aim at the audience of the event, which applauded following the remark.
"What made me even more concerned about this completely inappropriate remark is that applause welcomed these sentences. This is something that you cannot accept in any way", Rauball, who is also president of Borussia Dortmund, said.