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Neil Francis fired for comments made about Marcus Smith

Neil Francis

Francis himself has also issued a statement.

Neil Francis has been fired for comments made about Harlequins and England fly-half Marcus Smith.

This comes after the British and Irish Lions expressed their “deep dissatisfaction” with comments made by the former Ireland international about Smith’s physical appearance.

Neil Francis

Francis was speaking on the Irish Independent’s The Left Wing podcast shortly after Smith was originally called up, and described him as “A Harlequins out-half with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan – you just couldn’t throw him in.”

Harlequins released a statement criticising Francis for his comments, and labelled his remarks “racist”.

Neil Francis

Neil Francis fired for “racist” remarks

Mediahuis Ireland, publisher of Independent.ie, decided to end Francis’ contract following his remarks.

A spokesperson for Mediahuis Ireland said: “Neil Francis’s remarks were unacceptable and he has apologised for them.

“The comments were initially released in the podcast last week but were subsequently removed by our production team a short time later. This should have happened before it was released and we apologise for the error.

“We acknowledge that Mr Francis says his comments were inadvertent but we have decided to end our relationship with him and he will no longer write columns or contribute to our podcasts.”

Francis himself has also since issued a statement, where he claims that race was not a factor in his comments.

He wrote: “During a podcast for The Left Wing recorded on Wednesday the 14th of July I made comments about the Harlequins and England out-half Marcus Smith where I stated that he had ‘a David Beckham hair style and an Oompa Loompa tan’.

“I was, I suppose making comment on how backs in particular turn out when they enter the field.

“At all stages this is what I meant by those comments.

“Marcus Smith is of English/ Filipino heritage and some of the media comments at the moment have made mention that I have racially abused the player.

“I would never intentionally or wilfully make a comment to disparage somebody on the basis of the colour of anyone’s skin. Never! The comments have been interpreted differently from what I intended and I apologise sincerely for that.

“I fully apologise for any offence taken by the player and his family. I intend to apologise directly to him shortly if he is agreeable. I also apologise to anyone who also took offence to what I said.”

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