Ulster Rugby has issued an unreserved apology after a photograph was posted on the internet showing some of their players wearing black make-up and Ethiopian flags.
The image was posted on the Twitter account of Irish international player Paddy Jackson, showing him with two other internationals, Chris Henry and Andrew Trimble, Ulster player Michael Allen and former Ulster player Paddy McAllister.
Joseph Ricketts, from ACSONI (African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland) said that the photo was “deeply offensive” – particularly that one of the players was wearing a chain around his neck and hands.
“I am shocked and appalled by this irresponsible behaviour,” he said.
“It’s worse than bad taste. One of the characters was seen with a chain around the neck, which mimics the most awful period in history for black people.
“It’s nasty and people who have seen it are very appalled by it.”
He told the BBC: “Whether they were trying to justify it as good craic or something, people are offended by it and as public figures, which they are, they need to be more responsible in the way they behave.”
Ulster Rugby yesterday issued a statement, saying it would like to “apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by a photograph posted on Twitter of some players at an Olympic-themed fancy dress party held two years ago”.
It added: “It was not the intention of the players to cause upset and the photograph has since been removed.”
It is understood the players were attending a fancy dress party where different groups were asked to dress as Olympic teams from different countries.
The photograph was yesterday removed from Twitter.
The Irish Rugby Football Union said it had contacted Ulster Rugby and was “satisfied that they have addressed it appropriately”.