The England footballers Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard have said they do not condone any form of discrimination, after a photograph emerged of them posing in Dubai with the grime MC Wiley.
Wiley is a hugely controversial figure. In 2020 he was banned from Twitter and Facebook for a series of antisemitic posts, including one rant in which he compared Jews with the Ku Klux Klan and described them as snakes.
On Tuesday the Jewish Chronicle published a photograph of Rashford and Lingard, both Manchester United players, posing with Wiley after a performance at a nightclub in Dubai on Sunday. It had been posted on Wiley’s Instagram page and was later deleted.
A backlash prompted both players to make statements on antisemitism.
Rashford said: “This picture has been brought to my attention which I understand now, given context, could easily be misconstrued. I would like to reinforce that I do not and will not condone discriminative language or behaviour of any kind aimed at the Jewish community or any other community.”
A Manchester United-supporting reporter, Ben Bloch, asked what the context was, adding: “All I’m seeing right now is you posing next to a man who hates me and other Jewish people to his core. Please help me understand.”
Rashford replied: “Hey Ben, I wasn’t aware of comments that had been made when I got pulled into a photo opportunity. Comments that I absolutely condemn. I apologise for any upset caused. We just all happened to be in the same place at the same time.”
The footballer also said: “I truly believe that tackling antisemitism in and outside of the game requires a greater level of attention and should very much form part of the game’s anti-racism stance.”
Lingard posted on Twitter: “I’ve been made aware of a photo circulating currently, that can easily be misconstrued. I want to make it clear that I do not condone any form of racism whatsoever!”
Wiley, known as the “godfather of grime”, has refused to distance himself from the comments but apologised for “generalising” about Jewish people. He said they came after a falling out with his now former manager, who is Jewish.
He told Sky News: “My comments should not have been directed to all Jews or Jewish people. I want to apologise for generalising, and I want to apologise for comments that were looked at as antisemitic.”
Wiley was awarded an MBE in 2018 but told the interviewer he would happily give it up as he “never wanted it”.