Irish Independent rugby pundit Neil Francis is back in the public limelight for an offensive remark that he made.
During a discussion about the Lions outhalf options on the Indo's Left Wing podcast last week, Francis described talented Harlequins, England and Lions outhalf Marcus Smith as "a Harlequins outhalf with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan".
Bad business these days pic.twitter.com/Ak9fxijLNU
— Sean Mac (@wordmud) July 22, 2021
Francis, who has a long history in offending people, pauses for a chuckle while making the remark.
Smith's mother comes from the Philippines. Smith was born in Manila and his family lived in the Philippines until he was seven years old.
The snippet has been widely shared by angry rugby players and fans on social media in the last 24 hours.
The fact Neil Francis said what he did is appalling, but to publish it & no one challenge him is as equally appalling. https://t.co/7idgTqoRdm
— Ugo Monye (@ugomonye) July 23, 2021
This afternoon, Harlequins released a statement saying it was 'disgusted' by the remark.
"Harlequins is disgusted by offensive comments made by an Independent.ie columnist regarding Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith and await a reply regarding the matter.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Lions has said they've contacted the Independent about the comment. On Twitter today, Tim Percival, heads of communications for the Lions tweeted "We find the remarks relating to Marcus Smith offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction."
.We find the remarks relating to Marcus Smith offensive and have written to the Independent to express our deep dissatisfaction.
— Tim Percival (@TimPercival) July 23, 2021
The Irish Independent would soon release a statement of their own, saying that Francis had apologised for the comments.
Mediahuis Ireland, their publisher, has also taken the decision to end his contract with immediate effect. Francis claims that the comments were not racially motivated.
Neil Francis and his past controversies
Back in 2014, Francis claimed that gay people 'were not interested in sports' on Newstalk radio, a comment for which he apologised for.
He said: "It’s not a generalisation, in every sphere of life and in every year, you meet a gay man or gay people in a social environment and the way I look at it, after talking to them, is that they have very little interest in sport.”
He added: “Do a survey of the hairdressing industry and find out how many heterosexuals are in that.”
Back in 2018, Francis called the France rugby team 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys', a comment the Irish Press Ombudsman called 'not racist' but 'provocative'.
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