WIGAN, England — The owner of English club Wigan made controversial comments about Jewish people while defending his decision to hire a coach who is under investigation for sending racist and anti-Semitic messages.
Malky Mackay was hired as Wigan manager on Wednesday even though the English Football Association is looking into a dossier from his time in charge of fellow second-tier team Cardiff, when he sent offensive text messages to a colleague.
Dave Whelan, a 77-year-old businessman who has owned Wigan since 1995, said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper — published on its website on Thursday — that he did not believe the anti-Semitic and racist texts sent by Mackay were offensive.
Commenting on a text sent by Mackay about Jewish people and money, Whelan said: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”
Whelan also said there was “nothing bad” about a message sent by Mackay in which he used a term widely perceived to be insulting toward Chinese people.
Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said on Twitter that Whelan should “withdraw and apologize for his use of disgraceful antisemitic language.”
West Ham co-chairman David Gold, who is Jewish, told the BBC he was “saddened by the words” which are “damaging relationships between him and many other people.”
Kick It Out, an organization which tackles discrimination and racism in English football, said Whelan “brought into question whether he is a fit and proper person who should be running a professional football club.” It added that Whelan’s remarks “act as another example of the culture which continues to exist within football.”
Wigan’s shirt sponsor, Premier Range, said on Thursday it was ending its deal with the club following the hiring of Mackay, saying it “has put us in a position that we find untenable.”
The company said Mackay’s text messages “are at odds with the general ethos here at Premier Range.”
Wigan is in its second season back in the second-tier League Championship after being relegated from the Premier League in 2013.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press