West Ham United director of player recruitment Tony Henry has said the Premier League club does not want to sign African players because "they can have a bad attitude" and "cause mayhem," per Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail.
Lawton detailed how Henry sent an email on January 27 telling an agent for the Hammers, along with another official at the club, to disregard a player of Cameroonian origin after a scouting mission. The e-mail was leaked to Lawton's publication, prompting Lord Ouseley, the head of anti-racism organisation Kick it Out, to describe Henry's actions as "potentially unlawful," per the report.
Lawton relayed the content of the email: "We don't want any more Africans and he's not good enough. I sent Thomas to watch him and the other lad last week and he said no. If Palace take them good luck."
Henry was then asked by the Mail if his views reflected club policy. After an initial denial, he confirmed the club backed his view while attempting to justify his stance:
"It's nothing racist at all. It's just sometimes they can have a bad attitude. We had problems with Sakho, with Diafra Sakho. We find that when they are not in the team they cause mayhem. It's nothing against the African race at all."
Expanding on his original comments, Henry denied there was any racist overtones or import:
"I don't know what you are trying to get at here. All I said was, look, we have a great lad in (Cheikhou) Kouyate, he's brilliant, a great player for us, he's a good lad.
"But the likes of Sakho have caused mayhem. When he's not playing…he always wants a new deal. That's all it was. It was nothing discriminatory at all."
As a further attempt to explain his words, Henry stressed his concerns were focused more on squad harmony rather than any particular nationalities:
"I could say we get offered Russian players. I just find with Russian players that they don't settle in England. It's like Italians. How many Italians come and settle in England? As a club we are not discriminatory at all."
"If you've got too many, they all sit together and it becomes a situation where you can have problems. But then you can have problems with English players. I don't know what you are driving at."
However, his international teammate Cheikhou Kouyate remains an important member of the Hammers' squad, as does full-back Arthur Masuaku, who is of Congolese heritage. Meanwhile, new loan signing Joao Mario is eligible to represent Angola but opted to become a Portugal international.
Despite suggesting the club supported the views, West Ham have moved swiftly and suspended Henry pending an investigation.
Per Alex Richards of the Daily Mirror, a club spokesperson said: "The club can confirm that director of player recruitment Tony Henry has been suspended pending a full and thorough investigation. West Ham United will not tolerate any type of discrimination and has, therefore, acted swiftly due to the serious nature of these claims."