Kelvin MacKenzie faces a possible investigation into whether his now infamous column on footballer Ross Barkley breached harassment and discrimination rules.
The Sun columnist was suspended on Saturday after comparing the Everton striker to a “gorilla”. His employer, News UK, said his words were “wrong” and “unfunny”.
Now Ipso, the press watchdog, has revealed it has received 219 complaints about Friday’s column - prompting a probe into whether the piece breached editors’ guidelines.
How Ipso complaints are dealt with
After an initial assessment, complaints are referred back to publications which will seek to resolve problems themselves. However, should complaints fail to be resolved, they are then pursued by Ipso independently.
Unresolved complaints are forwarded to the watchdog’s complaints committee - which counts lawyers, journalists and other professionals among its members.
Its previous rulings have required newspapers to print prominent retractions and corrections.
The Sun, alongside many other newspapers and online publications, is a member of Ipso and has committed to upholding its Code of Practice.
MacKenzie’s column chronicled a nightclub assault involving Barkley, 23, who has a Nigerian grandfather.
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 Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, reported MacKenzie to the police for what he sees as a “racial slur”.
MacKenzie has long drawn disgust from the city after, as editor of The Sun at the time, he blamed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster on fans and said Liverpool supporters had picked the pockets of the dead and urinated on police.
An inquiry last year found these claims to be completely false and that the 96 people who died had been unlawfully killed.
The paper continues to be boycotted by outlets in Liverpool.
A spokesperson for The Sun did not return a request for comment.