Irish rugby players react to Neil Francis’ “racist” comments

Neil Francis

“Siri, what’s the definition of a langer?”

A number of Irish rugby internationals have taken to Twitter to respond to Neil Francis’ offensive remarks made about Marcus Smith.

Francis, a former Irish international himself, was fired by Mediahuis Ireland, for comments made about Smith’s physical appearance on the Irish Independent’s podcast The Left Wing.

Speaking about Smith, Francis said: “A Harlequins out-half with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan – you just couldn’t throw him in.”

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

Irish internationals respond to Neil Francis’ comments

Bundee Aki shared the clip of Francis’ comments and wrote: “This has gone on way too long. There are a few more out there that seriously need to watch what they say. We’re out here doing exactly what they loved doing when they were playing.

“What gives them the right to dog another player and judge them about their skin colour?”

Simon Zebo also had a strong response to Francis’ comments, referring to him as a “langer”, a derogatory phrase commonly used in Munster.

Jack Carty meanwhile responded by tweeting: “What a disgrace to see comments made about the colour of a player’s skin, in addition to previous homophobic and xenophobic comments that I’ve read in the past. All of which have no place in our game nor in our wider society for that matter.”

Neil Francis apologises for Marcus Smith comments

Francis has since apologised for his comments, but maintained that he never “intentionally” made a comment to disparage anybody based on the colour of their skin.

He said: “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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