No sanction for Schalke chairman for racist comments

BERLIN (AP) — The German soccer federation’s ethics committee will not take any action against Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies for making racist comments.

The committee said in a statement Thursday that it will not open proceedings against the 63-year-old businessman “because Mr. Tönnies was able to convincingly show that he was not a racist during the in-depth hearing and questioning.”

Tönnies has been under fire since telling a public meeting on Aug. 1 that it was better to fund 20 power plants a year in Africa rather than increase taxes to fight climate change because “then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark.”

The committee said it concurred with the general consensus that the comments qualified as racist in meaning.

“This qualification is correct according to the general understanding of language,” the committee said, contradicting Schalke’s stance on the comments. “Irrespective of its classification as racist or discriminatory, the sentence used by Mr. Tönnies is a violation of the German soccer federation’s principles.”

Tönnies apologized for the comments and responded to ongoing criticism by stepping down as chairman of the club for three months.

Schalke, which had said allegations of racism were “unsubstantiated” but claims of discrimination “justified,” was also criticized for its lack of response to the comments.

Many Schalke fans called for Tönnies to depart the club permanently. The club’s supporters held red cards during the 5-0 win at fourth-tier club SV Drochtersen/Assel in the German Cup and displayed a banner saying: “We’re showing Tönnies the red card.”

Bayern Munich fans also addressed the matter during their Bundesliga win at Schalke on Saturday, displaying banners that read: “Tönnies, just one of many!” and “Red card for racists!”

Tönnies made his comments as head of the Tönnies Group, a meat-processing food giant with about 16,500 employees that specializes in the slaughter of pigs and cattle. The group posted revenues of 6.65 billion euros ($7.45 billion) last year.

Tönnies has been a member of Schalke’s supervisory board since 1994 and its chairman since 2001.