Newcastle United and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has issued a grovelling apology for the retail company's handling of the coronavirus crisis, insisting they would never have acted against the government's advice.
Sports Direct came under an avalanche of criticism after a tweet arguing that while stores all over the country were being told to close, they should be exempt due to the 'essential' service they provide through flogging fitness equipment.
In a tweet that amazingly still exists, Frasers Group - which operates Sports Direct and Evans Cycles - said: "As the government rightly recognises in its guidance on social distancing, looking after physical and mental wellbeing in this unprecedented period of social isolation will be extremely important.
"Fraser's as a group is the leading retailer of sports and fitness equipment in the UK, through the Sports Direct and Evans Cycles fascias.
"We would like clarity on whether our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles fascias should open in the morning?"
The explanation that they were just 'seeking clarity' generally hasn't flown, as the comments were slammed as no more than a publicity stunt and last-gasp cash-grab in a time where lives are being put at serious risk by a worsening pandemic.
This is an absolute clownshow, Sports Direct management. Your earlier white-text-on-black image that circulated was basically "we've realised we can make a boatload of cash during these times and we know that if we shut people will just buy stuff from Amazon instead". (1/2)— Clawhammer (@Clawhammer18) March 24, 2020
#BoycottSportsDirect was trending on Twitter within hours, and having been almost universally panned (so much so that's it's difficult to find tweets to embed without swearing in them) Ashley has issued an open letter, accepting that the correspondence was 'ill-judged and poorly-timed.'
"Our intentions were only to seek clarity from the Government as to whether we should keep some of our stores open; we would never have acted against their advice," Ashley said .
"In hindsight, our emails to the government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with.
"On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor.
"To reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days.
Ending on a note that reads more like a footballer apologising for a 3-0 defeat than a billionaire business owner apologising for a fairly serious misstep, Ashley concluded: "We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future."
Source : 90min