June 19, 2020 / 5:41 PM / 20 days ago

Dutch soccer players boycott TV show over Black Pete remarks

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch men’s and women’s national football team players said on Friday they would no longer grant interviews to a popular TV show due to remarks made by a commentator mocking an anti-racism protester.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Second Leg - Liverpool v Atletico Madrid - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - March 11, 2020 Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

In a statement first published on Twitter by men’s team captain Virgil van Dijk, the players said they would no longer speak with the Veronica Inside programme after the host compared a prominent Dutch black activist to “Black Pete”.

Black Pete is a fictional character in Dutch winter holiday celebrations usually portrayed by white people wearing black face paint - a tradition criticised this week by U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson as offensive.

“This is not on the edge, this has nothing to do with humour, this is not the language of football,” said Liverpool defender Van Dijk.

The national football association KNVB told national broadcaster NOS that it stood behind the players.

Veronica Inside host Johan Derksen said earlier on Friday that he did not regret his comments.

“I didn’t think the joke was really that bad, for me,” he told newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

“This is a storm in a teacup that will blow over,” he said.

Several show sponsors, including supermarket retail giant Ahold, said on Friday they would stop advertising during the show, which is aired by Talpa, a company owned by billionaire Dutch media mogul John de Mol.

“We are in discussions with the channel and have indicated that we do not wish to advertise during this program,” Ahold said in a statement. “There is no room for discrimination at Albert Heijn,” it said, referring to the largest Dutch supermarket chain.

Procter & Gamble said it would no longer advertise its Gillette razor blades during the program, broadcaster NOS reported. P&G could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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