Columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended by The Sun after he expressed “wrong” and “unfunny” views about the people of Liverpool.
In an article published on Friday, MacKenzie compared Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, who has a grandfather born in Nigeria, to a “gorilla”.
He said men with similar “pay packets” in Liverpool were “drug dealers”.
Merseyside Police are investigating whether his comments constitute a “racial hate crime”.
The Sun apologised “for the offence caused” and added that it was “unaware of Barkley’s heritage”.
In a statement of his own, MacKenzie reiterated the latter sentiment, adding that it was “beyond parody” to describe the column as “racist”.
In the article, which has since been taken off the newspaper’s website, former editor MacKenzie said:
Alongside the article, The Sun published adjoining pictures of Barkley and a gorilla on their website with the caption “Could Everton’s Ross Barkley represent the missing link between man and beast?” The picture was later removed.
Barkley, 23, was punched in a Liverpool bar last weekend in what his lawyer described as an “unprovoked attack”.
Police confirmed they were investigating the “full circumstances”.