Schalke chairman Tönnies apologizes for Africa comments

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies has apologized for comments he made linking climate change with overpopulation in Africa.

Tönnies made the comments at a “Handworkers’ Day” meeting with 1,600 guests in Paderborn, where he reportedly criticized tax increases to fight climate change and suggested 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,” the Neue Westfälische local newspaper quoted Tönnies as saying.

The comments were widely condemned as racist and Tönnies 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 told the Schalke website: “As Chairman of the supervisory board of FC Schalke 04, I am 1,000 percent behind our club values. This includes the fight against racism, discrimination and exclusion. On the basis of that I expressly wish to excuse myself. It was wrong, rash and thoughtless and in no way in line with our values. I am very sorry.”

Tönnies heads the Tönnies Group, a meat-processing food giant with around 16,500 employees that specializes in the slaughter of pigs and cattle. The group posted revenues of 6.65 billion euros ($7.37 billion) last year.