Alan Sugar has been criticised for posting a tweet about the Senegal World Cup squad that compared the players to people selling sunglasses and handbags on beaches.
The tweet featured a photoshopped picture of the team looking as though they were selling counterfeit goods. “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multitasking, resourceful chaps,” Lord Sugar said.
After people criticised the tweet as being racist, Sugar responded by tweeting: “Why not it is meant to be funny … for god sake” and “I cant see what I have to apologise for … you are OTT … its a bloody joke.”
Osasu Obayiuwana, the British-Nigerian associate editor of New African magazine and contributor to the BBC’s World Football show, wrote: “Dear @Lord_Sugar, I’m afraid no Senegalese or African will see this as funny. What you wrote was hurtful and plays to a racist stereotype. If you really don’t see what’s wrong with what you’ve written, you have a lot to learn still. You should know better!”
Sugar subsequently took down the image, saying: “Just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet about the guy on the beach in Marbella. Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people. Frankly I can’t see that, I think it’s funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.”
An hour and 20 minutes after posting the initial image, Sugar used Twitter to issue a further apology, stating: “I misjudged me [sic] earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.”
The incident comes at an awkward time for the BBC, for whom Sugar is the high-profile presenter of The Apprentice. On Wednesday, the corporation launched launched new diversity guidelines that introduce a rule to ensure black and minority ethnic candidates appear on shortlists for senior roles.
Earlier this year Sugar faced criticism for a tweet that pictured the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, alongside Adolf Hitler. In that incident, he later responded: “It’s a joke, but the angry brigade like to moan.”