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Man's racist rant sparks social media outcry in South Africa

A video of a man making racist comments while on a beach has prompted widespread outrage and sparked a conve...

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 5:06 AM
Updated: Aug 23, 2018 5:06 AM

A video of a man making racist comments while on a beach has prompted widespread outrage and sparked a conversation about racism in South Africa.

In video apparently taken on a beach in an unknown place, the man who was named in South African news reports and on social media as Adam Catzavelos, uses a derogatory term for black people widely known in South Africa as the K-word.

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The video has caused widespread outrage since a Twitter user posted it on the platform on Tuesday.

The hashtag #AdamCatzavelos has since been trending as people used Twitter to condemn his comments, with some sharing his personal and work details as well as those of his wife, Kelly Catzavelos, who South African media says works as a merchandising director for sportswear firm Nike in South Africa.

Following the outrage, Reuters news agency reports that two Nike stores in Sandton, Johannesburg -- where Catzavelos' family business is located -- have been closed but Nike is yet to comment on whether the closures are connected to Catzavelos.

CNN contacted Nike to confirm the reports but a spokesman declined to comment and requested we email the company instead. A response has not yet been received.

However, according to Sowetan Live, a local media outlet, Nike released a statement on Adam Catzavelos:

"Nike opposes discrimination and has a long-standing commitment to diversity‚ inclusion and respect. We believe in the power of human potential in everyone -- of every race‚ religion‚ nationality‚ gender and sexual orientation."

"We can also confirm that Adam Catzavelos is not a Nike employee‚" the statement said.

According to multiple local media reports, Catzavelos' family has released a statement condemning his actions: "The family of Adam Catzavelos is appalled by the video in question. It is abhorrent and we fully disassociate ourselves from the sentiments expressed. Given the high-profile nature of this development‚ the business has been temporarily closed for the protection of all its staff. We have no further comment at this stage."

The family company, St George's Fine Foods, a sauce/meat marinade manufacturer, has also allegedly fired Catzavelos, according to South Africa Eye Witness News.

Eusebius McKaiser who is a host for Radio 702 in South Africa tweeted out the same family statement.

CNN contacted St George's Fine Foods multiple times but was unable to get a response.

The website and social media pages of the company appear to have been taken down also. Many have also gone to the company's Google Review page to leave reviews criticizing Catzavelos' racist comments.

At least one company, the Baron Group, has said it stopped doing business with the St George's Fine Foods.

Following calls on social media for companies associated with Catzavelos to terminate their relationship with him, Nedbank, a South African bank where Catzavelos once participated in an accelerator program, condemned the racist rant in a Twitter post and also clarified that he is not an employee.

A political movement known as the Economic Freedom Fighters visited a police station to open a case against the man.

South Africa has a fraught history with racism and apartheid and many say the video stirs up memories of a painful past.

It has also caused much soul-searching online among white South Africans.

Some have turned to Twitter to start a conversation around race and are addressing the complicity of other white South Africans -- who may bear witness to racist conversations but choose to stay silent.

This tweet is an example of what's being discussed on social media: "White South Africans who feel progressive have a duty to stand up and denounce those, relative or not, who use the 'k-word' at dinner or around the braai [a South African barbecue] because we all know this still happens a lot. I am genuinely tired of people like #AdamCatzavelos."

South African Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa tweeted his condemnation of the video, saying that "using K word is absolutely unacceptable & has no place in our society. We must all work together to isolate racists & report these incidences to law enforcement agencies so they can be held accountable."

In 2017, Vicki Momberg, a white south African woman, became the first person in South Africa to be found guilty and imprisoned for racist speech. She was sentenced to three years in prison, with one year suspended. In 2016, a real estate agent, Penny Sparrow, was ordered to pay around $10,000 to charity after she was convicted of hate speech for a Facebook post in which she referred to black people as "monkeys."

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