November 02, 2012

VIENNA (AP) -- Austrian broadcaster ORF has apologized to Bayern Munich defender David Alaba after he complained of being racially insulted in a television comedy sketch.

"Nothing could be further from ORF's intention than to racially abuse anyone,'' ORF head of communications Martin Biedermann said in a statement Friday. "The satire was clearly misunderstood, and we apologize for it because what counts is what people take from it, and not what's intended.''

The sketch was featured as part of the "Welcome Austria'' program broadcast last month, when one of the show's white hosts was painted black to represent Alaba, an Austrian national team and Bayern Munich player. Another host played Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach.

The presenter playing Stronach calls the Alaba character a "black man,'' saying, "You probably live in a refugee camp.'' He then holds up a banana and asks, "What is this? You probably know this, you've always seen them. It's a banana.''

Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse reported that Alaba's legal representative wrote to ORF general manager Alexander Wrabetz to complain after an initial request to withdraw the clip from the internet went unheeded.

ORF spokesman Markus Wibmer told The Associated Press that the show's presenters, Dirk Stermann and Christoph Grissemann, had apologized for causing offense.

"They are very fond of David Alaba and it was never their intention to insult him,'' Wibmer said.

He said the skit was part of a series of satirical sketches in which Grissemann performs as Stronach, who is prominent in Austrian politics, in various situations each week.

"If it was taken as a personal attack by Mr. Alaba we are sorry for that, but that was not the sketch's intention,'' Wibmer said.

Bayern spokesman Markus Hoerwick told Die Presse that such an incident "wouldn't be possible in Germany'' and that should be the case also in Austria.

"Racism is explicitly banned and shunned in European football and across all leagues, and then you have something like this,'' Hoerwick said. "I find it tasteless.''

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