West Ham director admits bias against African players because they 'cause mayhem'

Senegalese midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate has been a regular for West Ham since arriving at the club in 2014. (Getty)
Senegalese midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate has been a regular for West Ham since arriving at the club in 2014. (Getty)

West Ham United director of recruitment Tony Henry is under fire for admitting that he has refrained from signing African players because they “can have a bad attitude” and “cause mayhem” when they don’t get to play.

A report from the Daily Mail Wednesday night relayed leaked emails that Henry had sent to club staff and agents. In one, Henry argued against pursuing a Cameroonian player, and the two given reasons were, “We don’t want any more Africans and he’s not good enough.”

The Daily Mail confronted Henry about the emails, and the West Ham director admitted to having instituted a club policy to limit the number of African players in the squad. Here’s more from the Daily Mail:

Henry confirmed it was true and suggested it was a policy supported by club management. “Yeah,” Henry replied. “Because we had three and we felt we didn’t particularly want any more African players.”

Asked why, Henry replied: “Erm, no reason. It’s nothing racist at all. It’s just sometimes they can have a bad attitude.

“We had problems with Sakho, with Diafra Sakho [who recently was sold to French club Rennes]. We find that when they are not in the team they cause mayhem. It’s nothing against the African race at all.”

[Stream Super Bowl LII live on the Yahoo Sports mobile app]

Henry can say it’s not racist all he wants. But it clearly is. The story paints him as completely out of touch with reality. He seems utterly befuddled by the notion that his stance equates to prejudice.

Here’s more from the Daily Mail:

Asked if he thought his view was discriminatory towards African players, Henry asked: “In what way?”

Asked then if he thought his comments amounted to a slight on African players, he replied: “No. I don’t know what you are trying to get at here.”

The policy isn’t just racist. It’s potentially unlawful in its discriminatory nature, especially if its a directive to other club employees. Henry seems to be denying it’s discriminatory, even while he admits to shying away from employing players of certain nationalities based on stereotypes.

“I could say we get offered Russian players. I just find with Russian players that they don’t settle in England,” he told the Mail. “It’s like Italians. How many Italians come and settle in England?”

West Ham currently has six players of African decent on its roster after Ghanaian winger Andre Ayew was sold to Swansea on transfer deadline day. Five of the six see regular playing time.

West Ham issued a statement to the Mail in light of the revelations about Henry. It said it is “an inclusive, respectful and diverse football club. Equality is at the heart of our ethos and values. … We take any allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and are now in the process of ascertaining the full facts behind this accusation.”

– – – – – – –

Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.