KSI and The Sidemen embroiled in racism scandal over Countdown video - what happened?

KSI and The Sidemen embroiled in racism scandal over Countdown video - what happened?
KSI forced off social media for using racial slur in Sidemen video

Influencer, boxer and musician KSI – real name Olajide “JJ” Olatunji – has issued two apologies after saying a racial slur in a since deleted YouTube video on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, who co-owns the Prime drinks brand with fellow YouTuber Logan Paul, used a derogatory word aimed at Pakistani people in a video released by the creator group The Sidemen – of which he is a member.

The group, who release weekly videos to their channel on ‘Sidemen Sundays’, uploaded their second take on popular daytime gameshow Countdown last week, in which KSI said the slur as his answer during a letters round.

The other six members of the group – along with guest stars and musicians Yung Filly and Chunkz – could then be seen bursting out laughing as they reacted to KSI’s remarks.

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“Look, we need points, innit? I don’t mean this maliciously,” he said, before uttering the slur.

The video was later removed when KSI’s comments sparked widespread condemnation.

The reaction

After clips of KSI’s remarks were reposted online, Twitter users slammed the “dehumanising” comments, with some sharing their own experiences of abuse surrounding the word:

KSI’s apologies

On Monday, KSI addressed the incident in a short statement issued to Twitter.

He wrote: “I wanna apologise for saying a racial slur in a recent Sidemen video. There’s no excuse, no matter the circumstances, I shouldn’t have said it and I’m sorry.

“I’ve always said to my audience that they shouldn’t worship me or put me on a pedestal because I’m human. I’m not perfect. I’m gonna mess up in life, and lately I’ve been messing up a lot.

“So I’ve decided I’m gonna just take a break from social media for a while.”

The statement alludes to a previous controversy which took place last month, in which the YouTuber posted a series of tweets online attacking boxing commentator Wade Plemons for comments he made about the commercial success of a fight between KSI and rival YouTuber Jake Paul.

KSI later tweeted that he was “actually sorry”, had spoken to Plemons and that the whole thing “has just been a big misunderstanding”.

On Wednesday, the day he attended the press conference for the launch of his fight against professional boxer Joe Fournier, a second apology from KSI surfaced online.

“I recognise that I’ve caused a lot of hurt and disappointment to so many people – so many people who look up to me – and my ignorance has only reinforced the negative stereotypes that have existed for way too long in this country.

“Privately, I have taken the time to engage in very early conversations with some people from South Asian communities, and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.

“I will continue to educate myself on the rich history and diverse cultures of South Asia, and the struggles faced by its people,” he said.

Visiting a Bradford mosque

Wednesday also saw another video appear online in which KSI could be seen meeting with community members from the Al-Hikam Institute, a mosque in Bradford.

Confirming the visit in a Facebook post, Imam Muhammed Asim Hussain said he had a “long, deep and genuinely sincere conversation” with the YouTuber.

“As a leader in my community I don’t use my words lightly. KSI came here to Bradford to meet with me with pure intent to start the pathway to right his wrong and the first step is to gain a deeper understanding and education of his mistake.

“He realises the extent of his mistake and is genuinely remorseful and apologetic for the hurt he caused the South Asian community. The history of the Pakistani and South Asian community in British society was explained to him and the dangers of normalising offensive slurs to his audience was highlighted at length.

“He came with a genuinely remorseful heart and good intention, he brought no cameras and was filmed by our own enthusiastic community members in their excitement of meeting and seeing KSI unexpectedly here in Bradford.”

The Sidemen statements

In addition to KSI issuing his own, personal apology for the remarks he made in the Countdown video, a collective group statement was issued on behalf of The Sidemen on Monday.

It read: “We accept that [the use of the slur] was completely unacceptable and inexcusable. The fact the incident was made light of on the show was wrong and compounded the hurt. We deeply regret this and would like to truly apologise.

“We have reflected on this incident both collectively and individually and are truly ashamed that we let ourselves and you guys down in this way.

“We want to use our channels to promote positivity and great entertainment. We stand against racism and discrimination of any kind and we failed to do that.”

Alongside KSI, the group of creators is made up of Josh “Zerkaa” Bradley; Ethan “Behzinga” Payne; Tobi “Tobjizzle” Brown; Simon “Miniminter” Minter; Harry “WroeToShaw” Lewis and Vikram “Vikkstar” Barn.

Individual statements have also been issued by its members.

Barn wrote that “as a South Asian, I fell short of my responsibility to ensure this racial slur, that sadly I’m all too familiar with, is not tolerated or trivialised”, while Bradley encouraged followers not to “blindly defend us” but “be both sensitive and understanding to the frustrations of those that are hurt”.

Payne said he was “deeply sorry for causing such hurt”, while Minter said he is “genuinely” sorry “from the bottom of my heart” and that “it won’t happen again”.

Brown added: “I’d like to apologise personally and sincerely to the South Asian community for my lack of action in the situation, particularly having spoken passionately against racism before.

“Regardless of context or intent, the word should never have been said, allowed to be said, and then even upon edit allowed to be kept in. It showed a huge amount of ignorance on our part as to exactly how offensive it is.”

Lewis is yet to issue a personal statement addressing the incident, and guests Chunkz and Yung Filly haven’t commented publicly either.

Other controversies

In 2015 KSI released a video apologising for a trend he created known as the “rape face”, saying it was “something I should never have made light of” and that he “fully” regrets it.

Past videos have also seen him falsely tell a crowd of people he's gay as a "prank", and release a skit in which an individual can "avoid a fight" by being gay.

More recently, in 2021, JJ issued an apology after a fan pointed out his past use of a transphobic slur.

“My bad for saying transgender slurs. Honestly didn’t even know they were slurs. I know now though,” he said.

It is not yet known whether The Sidemen will release their weekly video this Sunday.

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