Just last month, soccer player Antoine Griezmann, who plays for FC Barcelona, was made an ambassador of the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, including the video game series, long running anime, and card game. But following allegations of racism, Konami have now dropped their approach to working with him.
In a video from 2019 that recently found it’s way into circulating the internet, Griezmann can be heard alongside his team mate, Ousmane Dembele, mocking Asian staff in a hotel room whilst they try and fix an issue with their room.
As a result of the video, and the ensuing backlash against the two players, Konami have taken the decision to terminate their partnership with Griezmann. In a statement released on the Konami website, the company have said the
“Konami Digital Entertainment believes, as is the philosophy of sports, that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable.
Previously we had announced Antoine Griezmann as our Yu-Gi-Oh! contents ambassador, however in light of recent events we have decided to cancel the contract.
With regard to our eFootball PES franchise, we will be requesting FC Barcelona as a club partner to explain the details of this case and its future actions”.
Griezmann was originally brought in as a brand ambassador for the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise after tweeting about his love for the anime, which he had watched since he was a child. Sensing an opportunity to promote the franchise through Griezmann, Konami quickly set up a partnership with the player, which included making him his own card, and including him in advertising for the franchise.
Griezmann did respond to the video in a tweet, stating the following: “I have always been completely against all forms of discrimination. For the past few days, certain people have wanted to paint me as someone that I am not. I firmly refute the accusations made against me and I’m sorry if I have offended any of my Japanese friends.”
Dembele addressed the video via Instagram, delivering the following statement, “Hello all, during these last few days, a private video dating back to 2019 has been circulating on social media. It all took place in Japan. It could’ve taken place anywhere on the planet and I would’ve used the same expression. I was therefore not targetting any community. I just happened to use this type of expression with my friends regardless of their origins. This video has since been made public. I appreciate therefore that it could’ve hurt the people present in these images. Because of this, I would like to sincerely apologise to them.”
The situation is complicated somewhat by Konami also being the developer of the PES football game franchise, and therefore holding relationships with a number of football clubs worldwide. Griezmann plays for Barcelona FC, and Konami has reached out to try and discover what actions the club will be taking in response to the video. It remains to be seen whether the two players will receive any further recriminations for their actions, but it’s clear that the burgeoning partnership between Konami and Griezmann is over.
Liam Wiseman is a Freelance News Writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @liamthewiseman