LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvians slammed on Thursday a blackface imitation of one of the country’s star soccer players on the local FOX Sports news channel, saying it perpetuated the kind of racial discrimination that is punishable with jailtime.
Comedian Miguel Moreno appeared as Afro-Peruvian striker Jefferson Farfan on FOX Sports Radio Peru on Tuesday, wearing blackface and oversized lips as he behaved as a dimwit and flirted with a local beauty queen on the show at the prompting of a nearly all-white panel of sports commentators.
The performance sparked an outcry on social media and prompted FOX Sports to issue an apology on Thursday.
“FOX Sports Radio wants to publicly offer its most sincere apologies for the discomfort caused by the parody,” the channel said in an emailed statement. “At no point was there the slightest intention of offending anyone.”
Peru’s government called the skit “reprehensible” and said it reinforced negative racist stereotypes.
“Any act of discrimination based on racial motives is prohibited by Peru’s constitution and is sanctioned by various laws, including through the deprivation of liberty,” the culture ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said it would address the matter with FOX Sports and take unspecified measures to ensure it does not happen again.
FOX Sports said in the statement it was committed to providing a healthy sports entertainment for all. “We regret the incident,” it said.
Farfan’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2013, Farfan tried to sue Frito-Lay for damages over a commercial featuring a similar blackface imitation by another comedian that Farfan’s attorney called “racist” and “humiliating”.
FOX Sports launched its local Peruvian channel in March amid a surge in demand for soccer news as Peru prepares to compete in the World Cup in Russia.
Farfan, 33, scored a key goal in a playoff match with New Zealand last year that allowed Peru to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, prompting widespread celebration in the South American country.
Since he starting playing for Peru’s national team, Farfan has scored 16 goals in World Cup qualifying matches, more than any other player in the country’s history.
Comedic performances that are criticized by many as grotesquely racist are somewhat common in Peru, despite regular objections by the culture ministry.
Last year, a full-length movie featured a male comedian in the role of a bumbling indigenous woman missing several teeth.
Additional Reporting By Marco Aquino; Editing by Darren Schuettler