Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie suspended after he compared Ross Barkley to a gorilla
Outspoken columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from The Sun after he compared Everton footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson reported Mr MacKenzie 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.
After News UK said it had suspended him with immediate effect, Mr MacKenzie told the Press Association: "I had no idea of Ross Barkley's family background and nor did anybody else.
Reported McKenzie&the S*n for their racist slur on Ross Barkley and the people of Liverpool to Merseyside Police&press complaints commission— Joe Anderson (@mayor_anderson) April 14, 2017
Sorry to share the Sun but it is important for people to see just how despicable the publshed Mackenzie article is. pic.twitter.com/5X0l9qlEQl— Joe Anderson (@mayor_anderson) April 14, 2017
"For the mayor of Liverpool and a handful of others to describe the article as racist is beyond parody."
Merseyside Police said enquiries 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, Mr 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."
Mr MacKenzie said Barkley would have "learned a painful lesson" from the altercation in 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."
Mr Anderson also complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) and condemned Mr 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.
Mr 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. Mr MacKenzie apologised in 2012.
Ipso said it would not be able to say how many complaints it had received until after the Easter break.
It is possible there could be a lot, given the surge of outrage on Twitter.
Former Arsenal footballer and Sun sport columnist Ian Wright tweeted: "Delighted to hear the news that Kelvin Mackenzie has been suspended. Surely there can be no way back after that article."
Burnley midfielder Joey Barton, who was an Everton youth player, wrote: "Those comments about Ross Barkley, a young working class lad are disgusting.
"Then add in the fact he is mixed race! It's becomes outrageous."
Former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore stated: "1. Where was the editorial process? 2. If not views of S**, why host them? 3. If he comes back, boycott sponsors."
A Merseyside Police spokesman said: "[We] can confirm that we have received an online complaint from a member of the public alleging that comments written about a third party constitute a racial hate crime.
"Enquiries are now being carried out to establish the full circumstances of the incident.
"We take all allegations of hate crime extremely seriously and would encourage anyone who feels they have been the victim of a hate crime or who has witnessed a hate crime to contact us."