Chelsea and Germany defender Antonio Rudiger has distanced himself from an Instagram post in which Russian UFC star Khabib Nurmagomedov called French president Emmanuel Macron “scum”, adding that he “does not support” the message.
Retired UFC champion Nurmagomedov published a furious diatribe about Macron to his following of more than 25 million last week, showing the politician with a bootmark on his head while asking god to “disfigure the face” of the head of state and his supporters.
Fellow Muslim Rudiger joined the likes of England icon David Beckham – who is a personal friend of Nurmagomedov – and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema in liking the post, but the Premier League center back has now backtracked on his apparent endorsement and insisted that it did not reflect his views, calling the move “a mistake”.
“Of course, you shouldn’t like posts that are written in [different] languages that you don’t understand at all,” he told Sportschau, reflecting on his response to the rant that was written in Russian.
“I reject any kind of violence and would therefore like to distance myself clearly from this content.
“I apologize for this like, which I have withdrawn in the meantime. Of course, I do not support such content as in this Instagram post at all.”
Devout observer Nurmagomedov followed up his comments with another post shortly afterwards, declaring that “ignorant” Macron had “insulted the feelings of Muslim believers and “challenged the Lord of the worlds.”
The French leader sparked stinging replies and even protests over his speech, which called for unity and a rejection of terrorism after a French schoolteacher was beheaded near Paris for showing pupils a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad as part of a lesson about freedom of speech.
Rudiger is the latest player to court controversy for appearing to back Nurmagomedov. Champions League finalist Presnel Kimpembe was forced to defend himself for liking the post and was labeled an “idiot” by a French politician who also called for him to be axed from the national side.
Several athletes have publicly called upon Nurmagomedov to avoid making potentially incendiary posts.
Russian cyclist Ilnur Zakarin told Sport Express: “If an ordinary person wrote this, this post would be missed.
“As the author was Khabib, the media began to replicate it.
“This is a religious issue. I myself am a Muslim – I practice Islam. But I am not a supporter of such posts.
“Many people follow us and listen to our opinion. Therefore you have to be extremely careful.”
Russian hockey veteran Andrei Rychagov, who plays in France, warned: “I believe that a person who is known to millions, and who has come such a long and difficult sporting path, has a huge responsibility for everything he says or does,”
“You need to be more careful in your statements and actions, especially when it comes to words that can lead to violence or something similar.”