LONDON (Reuters) - Dave Whelan, owner of Championship club Wigan Athletic, has apologised after being accused of anti-Semitism and condoning racism for referring to Chinese as “chinks” and saying Jewish people “chase money”.
He had been quoted by the Guardian newspaper (www.the guardian.com) on Thursday attempting to defend his hiring of former Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay who is under investigation by the FA for alleged offensive messages he sent while in charge of the Welsh club.
Whelan said one of the messages described Cardiff owner, Malaysian Vincent Tan, as a “chink” while in another Mackay made derogatory remarks about a Jewish football agent.
”If any Englishman said he has never called a Chinaman ‘a chink’ he is lying,“ said Whelan. ”There is nothing bad about doing that, it is like calling the British ‘Brits’ or the Irish ‘paddies’.
He added: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all, it’s telling the truth. Jewish people love money, English people love money, we all love money”.
Whelan later appeared on Sky Sports television to issue an apology.
“I would never upset any Jewish person because I hold them in the highest regard,” he said. “If anybody takes offence in anything I have said, please accept my sincere apology.”
Whelan’s original comments were condemned, with the Guardian quoting Chinese community leader Jenny Wong as saying that the Wigan owner was condoning racism.
Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out issued a statement questioning whether he was “a fit and proper person who should be running a professional football club”.
“The remarks act as another example of the culture which continues to exist within football and further proves that some in positions of power seem comfortable sharing those views either privately or publicly,” they said.
Former FA and Premier League executive Simon Johnson, who is chief executive at the Jewish Leadership Council, described Whelan’s comments as “disgraceful anti-Semitic language”.
One of Wigan’s sponsors, which has its logo on the back of their shirts, withdrew its support for the club on Thursday over this week’s appointment of Mackay.
In 2013, Wigan won the FA Cup and were relegated from the Premier League.
Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Tony Jimenez