Konami cancels sponsorship deal with Antoine Griezmann over racism controversy


Sports star Antoine Griezmann has surely made a name for himself in the last couple of years. Playing for both the French national team and European football club Barcelona, he’s one of the sport’s highest profile players.

He won the World Cup in 2018, scoring in the final against Croatia (and also celebrating his goal Fortnite-style) – it’s clear that almost every footie fan in the world has heard about Griezmann.

Meanwhile, Konami is one of the best-known companies in the video game world, even if much of the Japanese company’s activities are not related to video games these days, especially since they fired ace video game designer Hideo Kojima back in 2015.

Being the world-renowned player he is, Konami chose Griezmann as its Yu-Gi-Oh! contents ambassador. The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise spans a manga TV series, video game and trading card collectible game, and is pretty popular in Japan.

Konami, though, recently decided to cancel the French star’s contract after racism allegations, as was recently reported on ESPN (via Eurogamer).

It all happened during Barcelona’s tour of Japan in 2019, when Griezmann and his teammate Ousmane Dembele were waiting for a trio of Japanese technicians to fix a TV in order to play Pro Evolution Soccer (PES for short), which happens to be a Konami game…

In a Snapchat video which emerged recently, Dembele can be heard making controversial and racist comments while the technicians fix the TV, criticizing their physical appearance, making fun of the Japanese language and even questioning whether Japan was a technologically advanced society or not.

Meanwhile, Griezmann does not appear to say anything in the video, but is seen laughing at Dembele’s idiotic comments.

And now that the video has been made public, Griezmann issued a cookie cutter apology for it, saying he’s “against all forms of discrimination”, refuting the accusations made against his person and apologizing to his “Japanese friends”.

For his part Dembele made a similarly deflating apology on social media.

“It all took place in Japan, but it could have taken place anywhere on the planet and I would have used the same expression”, Dembele said. “I was therefore not targeting any community. I just happened to use this type of expression with my friends regardless of their origins”, added the French international and Barcelona player.

Dembele, a French player of Mauritanian origin, moved to Barcelona from German side Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for a staggering €105 million Euro fee (about $124 million US dollars).

Despite the player’s ability, though, he’s been criticized by many as one of Barcelona’s worst transfers.

Regarding Antoine Griezmann, aside from terminating its contract with him, Konami also complained to Barcelona about this video, given that the Catalan club is one of the company’s partner clubs in its PES 2022 game.

“With regard to our eFootball PES franchise, we will be requesting FC Barcelona, as a club partner, explain the details of this case and any future action”, said Konami in a statement.

This is not the first time that PES has been controversial though – back in 2017 Konami’s franchise found itself in the eye of the storm after it used Maradona’s likeness without his permission in PES 2017.

This aside, Rakuten also voiced it’s concern with the racist video to Barcelona, given that the Japanese e-commerce company is the club’s main sponsor, demanding an explanation from the world-famous club.

But regardless of whether Griezmann or his teammate Dembele really had any racist intent or not, here’s hoping that this year’s PES is as good as Konami’s game has ever been, and that Konami continues to maintain strong ties to Barcelona despite this incident for its fans’ sake at least.

Antoine Griezmann (link) [Creative Commons (link)]