The sponsors of Arsenal are holding urgent talks with the club after midfielder Mohammed ElNeny controversially posted his support for Palestine.
As tensions escalated between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, the Egypt-born player, who has more than 4.8 million followers on Twitter, posted: “My heart my soul, my support for you Palestine.”
The post provoked anger from Arsenal’s Jewish fans because it included an image called ‘Palestine Lives Matter’ which featured an outline of Israel filled with pro-Palestine images.
Contacted by Board of Deputies official Tal Ofer, Arsenal sponsors the Lavazza Group, said: “We’ll immediately reach out to Arsenal to remark we are concerned about the club associated with such a message.
“Content of this post is totally not aligned with our company values. Lavazza Group is fully committed against racism and antisemitism.”
Mr Ofer also contacted Arsenal’s other key sponsor Adidas and said it was disappointing they had not responded. The JC also contacted the high street giant for its view.
In a statement to the JC, Arsenal defended its player, saying Mr ElNeny was “entitled to express (his) views” but added they would be “speaking to Mo” about the post so he “understands the wider implications”.
A Deputy on the Board, Mr Ofer said: “I am also sad that Arsenal did not want to deal with this more seriously, I would expect better from them than this.”
On social media Mr Ofer called on the Football Association to suspend the player for the tweet: “No ifs, no buts”.
As of Friday, the player’s post was still up and had attracted more than 94,000 likes and almost 4,000 comments – many applauding his public support for Palestine.
However there were also comments from fans who accused the player of alienating and upsetting Arsenal’s large number of Jewish supporters, as well as Israeli fans who were currently under siege from a bombardment of rockets fired by militant Hamas.
Some urged Jewish supporters to contact the club and highlight the anti-racism ‘kick it out’ campaign run by football clubs, which includes antisemitism.
Lifelong supporter and season ticket holder Kenneth Brand, whose parents both came to Britain fleeing persecution in Europe in the 1930s, was among those who complained directly to the club.
He told the JC: “Football is a game that is supposed to bring people together but that post was just divisive.
“Arsenal has many Jewish supporters and also has many fans in Israel. Of course ElNeny is allowed to have a view but he is an Arsenal player and people are reading his views because he is an Arsenal player. What does Arsenal think about that?”
In a statement to the JC, an Arsenal spokesman said: “As with any employees of Arsenal, our players are entitled to express their views on their own platforms. That said, we are speaking to Mo about this so he understands the wider implications of his post.
“As a club we are committed to confronting and eliminating all forms of discrimination and continue to champion the need for equality and diversity across all areas of life.”