Arsenal responds to an open letter sent by the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations (UK) in relation to Mesut Ozil.
CTCA criticised Arsenal’s treatment of Germany’s Muslim World Cup winner. The letter also accused Arsenal of ‘overtly discriminating against our community.’ Chairman Ertugrul Mehmet claimed the club have treated Ozil ‘differently from other non-British players making a stand against injustice.’
Arsenal distanced themselves from Ozil’s criticism of the Chinese government over the plight of Uighur Turks back in December. Yet the letter claimed the Gunners did not do the same when team-mate Hector Bellerin called for people to vote in the UK’s general election under the hashtag: F***Boris. The club also supported skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and their Nigerian fans in last month’s protests against police brutality.
Mehmet warned the club is in danger of damaging its relationship with its north London Turkish fan base. He stated: “This action taken by the club has compounded the sense in our community that Arsenal is overtly discriminating against our community.”
Arsenals’s Communications & Community Affairs Director Mark Gonnella made the following response to CTCA Chairman Mehmet:
“Thank you to you and your colleague Sonya Karafistan for your time last week. It helped me better understand the issues being faced by your community across Europe and beyond. I will ensure these are more widely understood within the Arsenal Executive Team. As we discussed, a key principle at Arsenal is that we put equality and diversity at the heart of what we do as a club.
Within this context, it was upsetting to hear that you and members of your community feel we have been acting in a discriminatory way with regards to Mesut Ozil. This is simply not true. His omission from the squad lists, along with two other players, Sokatris and William Saliba, was a decision based purely on sporting criteria by our technical staff given the need to fit within the numbers permitted.
I understand that his omission coming on top of our response to Mesut’s post last Autumn, has raised concerns in your community but there is no link between two activities. Turning to Mesut’s post regarding the Uighur Muslim community, it is clear that he has brought the attention of the world to this situation which was previously little understood.
We fully recognize any of our employees have the right to freedom of speech and the fact that our over-arching aim is to remain apolitical.
Your open letter talks about why we didn’t do the same when Hector Bellerin tweeted about Boris Johnson in the build-up to the General Election. The simple and honest answer is that we were not asked in that instance by any media to respond with a public statement. Had we been asked, we would have been clear that any Arsenal employee is entitled to express their personal opinions but we would have also stated they should not use foul language on public forums.
We strive to remain apolitical at all times but as you know these lines are sometimes very blurred. Your reference about our recent tweet showing sympathies to people in Nigeria following the recent shootings is probably a case where we have inadvertently crossed the political boundary. This was never our intention. As a result of that post and the reaction from yourselves and others, I have revised our policy, reinforcing the need to avoid political issues.
I hope this goes some way to covering your key points. We know the club has a huge following from the Turkish/Cypriot community here in London and around the world. I hope we are able to build a strong relationship for the future.”