Outrage as Lord Sugar tweets 'racist' image likening Senegal's World Cup squad to Marbella street sellers - then finally apologises for 'misjudged' post after 82 minutes of backlash
- Lord Sugar posted racist tweet with image of Senegal national football team
- Hundreds of people reacted with fury to 71-year-old Apprentice host's tweet
- But he initially failed to back down, calling reaction 'OTT' to his 'bloody joke'
- His tweet was removed 23 minutes later - but it took 82 minutes for an apology
Lord Alan Sugar today sparked a huge race row after he posted a racist tweet comparing the Senegal national football team to black beach sellers.
Hundreds of people immediately slammed the 71-year-old Apprentice host, but he initially failed to back down, calling the reaction 'OTT' to what was a 'bloody joke'.
The tweet was eventually removed 23 minutes later - but Lord Sugar insisted this was only because it was 'interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people'.
However, 82 minutes after posting the initial message, he admitted the tweet was 'misjudged' and his 'attempt at humour has backfired', saying he was 'very sorry'.
Lord Sugar's position as host of the popular BBC TV programme - which has run for 13 seasons so far, with another on screen this autumn - could now come into doubt.
Lord Sugar tweeted this picture of the Senegal team, edited to include handbags and sunglasses laid out on sheets. The picture is from November 2014, when Senegal beat Egypt 1-0. Back row (from left) are 6 Salif Sane, 9 Mame Biram Diouf, 2 H. Pay Mison Djilobodji, 5 Papa Kouly Diop, 3 Serigne M. Kara Mbodji and 1 Bouna Coundoul. Front row (from left) are 17 Idrissa Gana Gueye, 12 Stephane Badji, 8 Cheikhou Kouyate, 10 Sadio Mane and 13 Cheikh Mbengue
Lord Sugar also tweeted, to a follower who asked when he would apologise: 'I can't see what I have to apologise for... you are OTT... it's a bloody joke'
The tweet was eventually removed 23 minutes later - but Lord Sugar insisted this was only because it was 'interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people'
Some 82 minutes after posting the initial message, he admitted the tweet was 'misjudged' and his 'attempt at humour has backfired', saying he was 'very sorry'.
His initial message, posted at 10.39am, included an image of the Senegal squad on the pitch, edited to include handbags and sunglasses laid out on sheets.
Lord Sugar wrote above the image: 'I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi tasking resourceful chaps.'
Lord Sugar (pictured in Essex in February 2016) initially refused to apologise
But the post was then deleted - and Lord Sugar said: 'Just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet about the guy on the beach in Marbella .
'Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people. Frankly I can't see that I think it's funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.'
However, 82 minutes after posting the first message, he tweeted: 'I misjudged me earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.'
He had also tweeted, to a follower who asked when he would apologise: 'I can't see what I have to apologise for... you are OTT... it's a bloody joke.'
In another post in response to someone who had said it was 'not an OK tweet', Lord Sugar wrote: 'why not, it is meant to be funny... for God's sake.'
Sugar later told Mirror Online: 'It was meant as a joke. Someone sent me the picture and I tweeted. People know I have fought against racism for years.
Lord Sugar was criticised by Twitter followers for his comments, with one person asking: 'What have you become?' - and another saying: 'Really, it was not funny at all'
'I sincerely didn't think this could be interpreted in any other way other than funny. However, due to the comments on Twitter I pulled it down.'
The BBC, who broadcast The Apprentice, were preparing a statement today. It is not yet known whether Scotland Yard are investigating the tweet.
Some Twitter followers compared Lord Sugar to Roseanne Barr, the US sitcom star who was dropped by her network after an outcry following a racist tweet.
Others were urging the public to complain to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards over the tweet. Lord Sugar joined the House of Lords in 2009.
Idrissa Gueye (left) of Everton and Cheikhou Kouyaté (right) of West Ham United are among the Senegal footballers who play in the Premier League
BBC World News presenter Babita Sharma said it was a 'shocking, vile tweet that you take a screen grab of because you know it will soon be deleted'.
Kayode Modupe-Ojo, a British-Nigerian entrepreneur, tweeted: 'If that Alan Sugar tweet was real then ladies and gentlemen... you just had a small insight into the type of 'undercover racism' black people face daily. As a black African man I am genuinely upset, offended and disappointing in you, Lord Sugar.'
Kelechi Okafor, a Nigerian-born actress who lives in London, added: 'A simple 'well done Senegal' would suffice. But that intra-generational jealousy took hold of Lord Sugar and he had to undermine the players based on their blackness.'
Among the 23 players in the World Cup squad for Senegal, who beat Poland 2-1 yesterday, seven are based in England - including five in the Premier League.
Some Twitter users urged Lord Sugar to 'stop', while others made light of his Apprentice catchphrase 'You're Fired'
They are Idrissa Gueye of Everton, Cheikhou Kouyaté of West Ham United, Alfred N'Diaye of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sadio Mané of Liverpool.
The other two Senegal players based in England are Badou Ndiaye and Mame Biram Diouf, who both play for Stoke City in the Football League Championship.
Bookmaker Paddy Power slashed the odds on Lord Sugar to not appear on the next series of The Apprentice from 20/1 to evens today.
Lord Sugar is also now rated at 5/1 to delete his Twitter account before next year.
When police probed Lord Sugar for posting another 'racist' tweet
Lord Sugar was investigated by police five years ago after being accused of posting a racist Twitter message.
The Apprentice star posted a photograph of a crying Chinese child to his Twitter followers, joking that the youngster was upset after being told off for leaving Apple's iPhone production line – a reference to the Asian factories where the phones are made.
The tweet prompted a single complaint to the Metropolitan Police from a Twitter user, who referred to the Labour peer as a 'vile racist'.
Lord Sugar tweeted a photograph of a crying Chinese child in 2013, joking that the youngster was upset after being told off for leaving Apple's iPhone production line
Police contacted the complainant twice, urging her to make a statement at a police station, which she eventually did.
Officers from Merseyside's Hate Crime Investigation Unit took several days to decide whether a crime had been committed by the tweet.
However, the remark was in the end classed as a 'hate incident' – which meant no further action would be taken, although details were kept on file.
The TaxPayers' Alliance condemned the police investigation at the time, insisting officers should not waste time chasing 'ill-thought-out tweets'.
Circulating the light-hearted pictures of a child dressed in a water melon costume in September 2013, Lord Sugar wrote: 'The kid in the middle is upset because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5.'
Liverpool shop owner Nichola Szeto, whose husband and family are Chinese, complained to the Metropolitan Police Twitter account, saying: 'I thought racism was illegal.'
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