A police investigation has been launched over a column in the Sun newspaper which compared a mixed-race footballer to a gorilla.
The article, written by the newspaper’s former editor Kelvin MacKenzie, made a number of disparaging comments against Everton midfielder Ross Barkley and the city of Liverpool.
Merseyside Police are investigating the "full circumstances" of the story.
On Friday evening the London-based tabloid announced it had suspended Mr MacKenzie.
Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, announced on Twitter he referred the column to the authorities and Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Mr Anderson said: "Not only is it racist in a sense that he is of mixed-race descent, equally it's a racial stereotype of Liverpool. It is racist and prehistoric."
A statement from the force said: "Merseyside Police can confirm that we have received an online complaint from a member of the public alleging that comments written about a third party constitute a racial hate crime.
"Enquiries are now being carried out to establish the full circumstances of the incident.
"We take all allegations of hate crime extremely seriously and would encourage anyone who feels they have been the victim of a hate crime or who has witnessed one to contact us."
In the column, Mr Mackenzie wrote that Mr Barkley was “thick” and when he saw him he gets “a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo”.
Mr Mackenzie also wrote that the only other men in Liverpool who earned as much as the footballer were “drug dealers” who were in prison.
The column was strongly criticised by Liverpudlians and much of the British football community.
In addition, it was published just one day before the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Mr MacKenzie has a long and bitter history with Liverpool and it was under his editorship that The Sun falsely reported Liverpool FC fans caused the crush at Hillsborough, which killed 96 people.
The newspaper also published a number of lies about the Liverpool fans’ conduct at the match.
But the fans’ version of events was vindicated last year when an inquest found the spectators had been unlawfully killed because of inadequate policing.
Mr Anderson called on Everton football club to boycott The Sun, in a similar fashion to Liverpool FC.
The Independent has contacted The Sun for comment.