0730 GMT January 23, 2020
Toennies, a billionaire owner of a meat processing company, had told a conference last week that instead of increasing taxes to protect the environment there should be more power stations built in Africa, Reuters reported.
“Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees and produce babies when it is dark,” Toennies said in his speech in Paderborn.
His comments instantly triggered a wave of angry reactions including from several former Schalke players, and calls for his immediate resignation from his post at the Bundesliga club that has one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in Germany.
“I am a bit speechless,” said Ghanaian-born former Germany and Schalke player Gerald Asamoah.
“His comments surprised me, shocked me and injured me. He is insulting me and everyone else involved.”
Toennies quickly issued a public apology saying his comments were wrong and inappropriate but said he stood fully behind the club’s fight against racism, discrimination and exclusion.
Schalke’s honorary board met late on Tuesday with Toennies and following a four-hour discussion that ran into the night rejected the claims of racism but said he had violated the club’s anti-discrimination rules.
“He accepted this violation and again expressed his regret. This is why Clemens Toennies has announced that he will step down from chair of the board for a period of three months,” the club said in a statement.
Schalke kicks off its Bundesliga season next week against Borussia Moenchengladbach.