Everton ban the Sun newspaper over Ross Barkley column
‘The newspaper has to know that any attack on this city . . . is not acceptable’
Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the newspaper. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire
Everton Football Club have banned the Sun newspaper from their Goodison Park stadium and training ground.
The announcement comes in the wake of controversy caused by Kelvin MacKenzie’s column in the newspaper, in which he compared Everton player Ross Barkley to a gorilla.
A statement on the Liverpool club’s website said it had informed the Sun on Friday that it was banned from the ground, the USM Finch Farm training ground and all areas of the team’s operation.
It added: “Whilst we will not dignify any journalist with a response to appalling and indefensible allegations, the newspaper has to know that any attack on this city, either against a much-respected community or individual, is not acceptable.”
Following the comments, MacKenzie was suspended from the Sun with immediate effect.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson also reported him to Merseyside Police for his “racial slurs” in Friday’s controversial column headlined: “Here’s why they go ape at Ross.”
Alongside was a photograph of a gorilla’s eyes below a close-up of the eyes of Barkley, whose grandfather was born in Nigeria.
Speaking after his suspension, MacKenzie told the Press Association: “I had no idea of Ross Barkley’s family background and nor did anybody else.
“For the Mayor of Liverpool and a handful of others to describe the article as racist is beyond parody.”
Merseyside Police confirmed an “online complaint” had been received by the force, and said inquiries were under way to “establish the full circumstances of the incident”.
Barkley was punched in a Liverpool bar last weekend in what his lawyer described as an “unprovoked attack”.
In his column, MacKenzie wrote: “Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers.
“There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.
“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.
“So it came as no surprise to me that the Everton star copped a nasty right-hander in a nightclub for allegedly eyeing up an attractive young lady who, as they say, was ‘spoken for’.
“The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”
MacKenzie said Barkley would have “learned a painful lesson” from the altercation in the Santa Chupitos bar, adding: “He is too rich and too famous to be spending his time in local hangouts where most of the customers have only just broken through the £7.50-an-hour barrier.”
Anderson has also complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) and condemned MacKenzie for his “prehistoric, stereotypical views of our city”.
News UK said: “The views expressed by Kelvin MacKenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper.
“The Sun apologises for the offence caused.
“The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended.
“Mr MacKenzie is currently on holiday and the matter will be fully investigated on his return.”
The suspension was announced on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans died.
MacKenzie was editor of the Sun when it published a front-page article headlined “Hillsborough: The Truth” in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster at Sheffield Wednesday’s football stadium.
The article claimed Liverpool fans were to blame for the tragedy. MacKenzie apologised in 2012.
Ipso said it would not be able to say how many complaints it had received until after the Easter break.