Should Tönnies’ Apology Suffice to Keep Him at Schalke?

Careers are often times built over many years, but they can be destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Clemens Tönnies has been part of Schalke’s board since 1994. The 63-year-old has been the head of the board since 2001. However, a statement made by the billionaire during a speech last Thursday could potentially cost him his place at Schalke.

During his address to the audience at the “Day of the Crafts” in Paderborn, Tönnies criticized politicians for the way they were addressing climate change. Higher taxes aren’t the solution, according to the self-made billionaire. Building 20 electricity plants in Africa every year could fix the problem though, according to Schalke’s president. His reasoning, according to Neue Westfälische Zeitung, was “If we were do just that, the Africans would stop deforestation and they’d stop producing children when it gets dark.”

At first, there were groans in the audience. But after a little while, Tönnies was applauded for the racist comment he had just made.

Prompt Apology

After NW published their article featuring this quote, Tönnies decided to apologize publicly. In a press release by Schalke, the Royal Blues’ president was quoted as saying, “As the head of the board of FC Schalke 04, I stand 1000 percent behind the values of the club. Part of those values are the fight against racism, discrimination and exclusion. Given this background, I want explicitly apologize to you, the fans, the members and friends of FC Schalke 04, for the comments I made during the “Day of the Crafts”. It was wrong, not thought through and thoughtless and it doesn’t live up to our values. I’m very sorry.”

Schalke’s head of sport Jochen Schneider wasn’t thrilled by Tönnies words on Thursday, but was happy with his apology. He is quoted by the club as saying, “The statements by Clemens Tönnies were unfortunate and not thought through. Tönnies is a man who stands 100 percent the values of Schalke 04. Today he apologized promptly and directly and from the bottom of his heart. And I believe that our society works in a way, which allows people to apologize and then move on. From my point of view, there’s nothing more to this subject. It’s not about dismissing the subject, but more than an apology isn’t possible in our society.”

Possible Consequences

So far it stands to be seen if Clemens Tönnies is going to face any backlash for his comments. The club’s honorary council is going to look at the matter next week. Schalke’s president is more than willing to speak in front of the committee to explain himself according to kicker.

The committee is free to punish the president in the way it sees fit, meaning that the punishment Tönnies could face ranges from a written warning to loosing his job as the president of the club.

Whether a sacking of the president by the honorary council is going to happen remains to be seen. Schalke’s board went public on Friday afternoon to support its president.

Should Tönnies stay?

These days, even a minor slip of the tongue can cost a public figure their job. The outrage often times felt on social media is not necessarily a positive development in that regard. Some of the people voicing their contempt for public figures should remember what they have said and done with their friends after a few beers too many. Regrettable thoughts can be voiced in those settings, and it is good a thing for the average Joe that those comments never are going to reach the internet or the public.

However, this wasn’t one of those incidents, even though Schalke’s board, head of sports and Clemens Tönnies would want you to believe just that. I doubt that Tönnies went in front of that audience without having his speech prepared. Given that, he had the chance to re-consider those comments before voicing them publicly. He didn’t think it was necessary.

There’s no doubt that Clemens Tönnies deserves being labelled a racist following these comments. His apology feels hollow and more like a PR move rather than regret. The club’s reaction of trying to dismiss these comments as a slip of the tongue adds another layer of nastiness to the whole episode.

Schalke’s fans have over the years voiced their opposition against racism and other forms of discrimination. It is disappointing that the board and the head of sports haven’t kept that in mind when they came out defending Clemens Tönnies.

Jochen Schneider might think that a simple apology is enough after a few unfortunate comments, but these were more than just unfortunate comments. It would send a deeply troubling message if Tönnies was to keep his job.

Former Schalke Player Hans Sarpei Demands Action

Tönnies apology wasn’t accepted by most people who talked about the matter online. A number of journalists have written columns stating that Tönnies should resign from his office.

Former player Hans Sarpei took to Facebook and Twitter to show his dismay over Schalke’s president comments, writing, “The statements made by Clemens Tönnies are displaying a world view which is reminiscent of colonial times. It’s a racist comment, which under no circumstances should be part of Schalke’s or our society’s values.

As a member and former player, I would like to see the honorary council taking a clear-cut position discussing possible consequences.

This is the world view of big-game hunter who presents stuffed baby elephants as trophies on his farm, who uses part-time labour companies with cheap foreign workers, and who courts (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin. It’s the world view of a man who has fallen out of his time. He’s becoming more and more of a burden for FC Schalke 04.

That fact that those comments were made at the “Day of the German Craft” which had the headline “entrepreneurs with responsibility” made the statement even worse.

As a German of African decent, I’m deeply disgusted by that sort of responsibility.

P.S. As of today, he has apologized to everyone. Except those who he insulted.”

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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