The Sun publishes apology to footballer Ross Barkley over Kelvin MacKenzie column

In his column, Kelvin MacKenzie called Ross Barkley 'one of our dimmest footballers'. Credit: PA

The Sun has published an apology to Everton and England footballer Ross Barkley over a column by Kelvin MacKenzie in which he compared the midfielder to a gorilla.

The piece, headlined 'Ross Barkley: Sun apology', appeared after the April 14 opinion piece in the paper sparked uproar and accusations of racism.In his column, MacKenzie described the 23-year-old as "one of our dimmest footballers".

"There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home," he wrote.

"I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it's the eyes that tell the story."

He went on to state that Barkley was "an attractive catch in the Liverpool area", as "the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty".

Alongside the article was a picture of the eyes of a gorilla, and a picture of Barkley's eyes.

News UK, which publishes The Sun, has also apologised. Credit: PA

The apology on page five of Saturday's newspaper read: "On April 14 we published a piece in the Kelvin MacKenzie column about footballer Ross Barkley which made unfavourable comparisons between Mr Barkley and a gorilla.

"At the time of publication the paper was unaware of Ross Barkley's heritage and there was never any slur intended.

"As soon as his background was drawn to our attention, the article was removed from online.

"We have been contacted by lawyers on behalf of Ross Barkley, who has made a formal complaint about the piece.

"The Sun has apologised for the offence caused by the piece.

"We would like to take this opportunity to apologise personally to Ross Barkley."

Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of The Sun, with Rupert Murdoch in 1986. Credit: PA

Mr MacKenzie was suspended by The Sun following the publication of the column.

Everton went on to ban Sun reporters from their Goodison Park stadium and training ground.

MacKenzie's suspension was announced on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

MacKenzie was editor of the Sun when it published a front-page article headlined 'Hillsborough: The Truth' in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

The article claimed Liverpool fans were to blame for the tragedy. MacKenzie apologised in 2012.