The Sun newspaper today printed an apology to Everton footballer Ross Barkley for publishing a column by former editor Kelvin MacKenzie which made "unfavourable comparisons" between him and a gorilla.
The article states lawyers acting on behalf of the 23-year-old England international had contacted the newspaper after the midfielder made a formal complaint about the piece.
The column, published on April 14, drew accusations from the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson that a "racial slur" was made against Barkley.
The allegation stemmed from a comment in Mr MacKenzie's piece in which he wrote the player was “one of our dimmest footballers”. He then added: “I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo.”
But the columnist, and The Sun, has since said they were unaware of Barkley's heritage, in that he has a Nigerian grandfather.
The apology, published on page 5 of today's paper, says: “On April 14 we published a piece in the Kelvin MacKenzie column about footballer Ross Barkley which made unfavourable comparisons between Mr Barkley and a gorilla.
“At the time of publication the paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended. As soon as his background was drawn to our attention, the article was removed from online.
“We have been contacted by lawyers on behalf of Ross Barkley, who has made a formal complaint about the piece.
“The Sun has apologised for the offence caused by the piece. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise personally to Ross Barkley.”
Mr MacKenzie, who was suspended by the newspaper afterwards, has previously said in a statement it was "beyond parody" to describe his column as "racist".
The column he wrote was in response to a video showing Barkley being punched in a bar in Liverpool following their 4-2 win over Premier League champions Leicester City.
Everton went on to ban reporters from The Sun from their Goodison Park stadium and training ground.
Another important win today... �� pic.twitter.com/SI8VIE0qDD— Ross Barkley (@RBarkley20) April 15, 2017
Emotions ran high in Liverpool after the column was published as it was shortly before the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster, where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in English football’s worst ever tragedy.
The Sun newspaper, which Mr MacKenzie edited at the time, ran a front page article in the aftermath headlined “The Truth”, claiming the club’s supporters “picked pockets of victims” and “urinated on police”. The allegations, which the paper and MacKenzie have since apologised for, has seen newsagents in the city refuse to stock the paper ever since.