Sun columnist denies ‘racist’ footballer slur

File photo dated 18/3/2017 of Everton's Ross Barkley as Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the newspaper after he expressed "wrong" and "unfunny" views about the people of Liverpool, News UK has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday April 14, 2017. See PA story POLICE Barkley. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

File photo dated 18/3/2017 of Everton's Ross Barkley as Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the newspaper after he expressed "wrong" and "unfunny" views about the people of Liverpool, News UK has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday April 14, 2017. See PA story POLICE Barkley. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the Sun after Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson spoke to police about his controversial column about footballer Ross Barkley.

Mr MacKenzie said it is “beyond parody” for critics to describe his controversial article about Everton footballer Ross Barkley as “racist”.

England midfielder Barkley, 23, has a Nigerian grandfather, which MacKenzie claimed he did not know about.

In his column on Friday, MacKenzie wrote: “Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers.

“There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.

“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.

“So it came as no surprise to me that the Everton star copped a nasty right-hander in a nightclub for allegedly eyeing up an attractive young lady who, as they say, was ‘spoken for’.

“The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”

Mr MacKenzie told the Press Association: “I had no idea of Ross Barkley’s family background and nor did anybody else.

“For the mayor of Liverpool and a handful of others to describe the article as racist is beyond parody.”

News UK described Mr MacKenzie’s comments in his column as “wrong” and “unfunny”.

The article, which has drawn outrage, was headlined “Here’s why they go ape at Ross”, alongside a close-up photograph of Barkley’s eyes above the eyes of a gorilla.

Barkley was punched in a Liverpool bar last weekend in what his lawyer described as an “unprovoked attack”.