“We can laugh at everything, but not with just anyone”, said the humorist Pierre Desproges. “Smile in front of anyone”, we should rather say in the case of Antoine Griezmann, caught up with an embarrassing video dating from 2019, which has gone viral in recent days on Twitter. We see the French striker looking laughing at the mockery of his FC Barcelona teammate Ousmane Dembélé during a club tour in Japan. The latter makes insulting remarks against the Japanese staff busy in their hotel rooms to operate their game consoles, zooming in on the faces of the employees.
The country of the Rising Sun did not appreciate the humor of the two French and quickly made it known through the voice of Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, Japanese giant of online sales and main sponsor of Barça. The businessman asked, Tuesday, July 6, explanations to the Catalan club. “We will officially protest against the club to know its point of view”, the leader said.
Worse, Antoine Griezmann was withdrawn Wednesday his contract which bound him to Konami. The Japanese publisher had made the player the face of his next video game and a famous card game, both scheduled for 2022.
“Beginning of trouble”
The 30-year-old has already found himself – despite himself – at the heart of a racist controversy. In 2017, during a fancy dress party, Griezmann posted on social networks a photo of him with his face painted black, like a Harlem Globetrotters basketball player. Some saw it as a clumsy reminder of the “blackface”, an American practice of the 19th century.e century aimed at humiliating African Americans. The player removes the snapshot and already apologizes.
“I have the impression that we are attacking anti-racist people. Griezmann is a guy fascinated by African-American basketball players and paid homage to them. We live in a crazy world, where we use anti-racism to create a new one ”, deplores the publicist Frank Tapiro. It is true that the native of Mâcon has very often shown his commitment to the fight against all forms of discrimination. In December 2020, Griezmann had decided to break his contract with the Chinese operator Huawei, suspected of having implemented facial recognition software to suppress the Uighurs.
More recently, during the Euro, he showed his support for the LGBT + community by posting a photo of the illuminated Allianz Arena in rainbow colors. One way of criticizing UEFA’s decision to ban the lighting of the Munich enclosure on the sidelines of the match between Germany and Hungary.
Ousmane Dembélé’s video calls into question the star’s recent commitments, whose sporting status is already dented by the lackluster performance of the France team at the Euro, eliminated in the round of 16 against Switzerland. The player has also asked for mercy on Twitter again to put out the fire.
“If I had been his communicator, I would have told him never to apologize, except to Rakuten. He just should have apologized for his bogus humor unrelated to racism. It is the beginning of trouble for him, because by dint of kneeling and asking for forgiveness, he will be attacked all the time ”, says Frank Tapiro. For Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet, a communications teacher at Sciences Po Paris, the strategy of forgiveness is the only one that is valid. “It’s a good thing he apologized. You have to admit your wrongs right away. He must resume his work started in the fight against discrimination, otherwise his action will be perceived as hypocritical. He must go on the offensive again ”, he thunders.
PMU support, Barça silence
Domestically, little information has filtered around the various partnerships that unite the player with the big French brands. If its supplier Puma has been unreachable, the PMU, with which it is linked until 2023, has addressed to the World a press release in which he firmly supports his ambassador: “Antoine Griezmann offered a sincere and public apology (…). Firmly committed against any form of discrimination, the PMU has taken note of this and maintains its confidence in Antoine Griezmann. ” The exception that confirms the desertion? “I dare not think about it. If this episode has any impact on his contracts, it’s the end of everything. Athletes will no longer dare to speak ”, fears communication expert Frank Tapiro.
Under contract with FC Barcelona until 2024, Griezmann is one of the big salaries, with emoluments of around 20 million euros per year. In the grip of great financial difficulties, the Catalan club could not extend Lionel Messi or register the new recruits, because the payroll exceeds the maximum threshold allowed by La Liga, according to the online sports media “Goal”. Some sales are therefore necessary. If the club blaugrana posted a statement of apologies to their Asian fans on their official website, he did not mention the future of his number 7.
Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet is not going all the way. “This video can allow his club to fire him. They are looking to save money, so the timing would be perfect. This could serve as a basis for Barca for a dismissal for misconduct. He has already lost a contract on this basis and the reputational damage is going to be colossal. It takes little time to destroy a reputation and a long time to rebuild it. ” A reconstruction that could start far from Catalonia, where the “Grizou coup” has never been so close.