“Mesut Özil’s retirement unleashed a discussion about racism in general and about the integrative power of football,” wrote Grindel, a former CDU MP, in a statement on the DFB website. “As DFB president, I don’t want to remove myself from this debate.”
Özil stepped down from the German national team last week following a summer of acrimony after he met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in April.
In his resignation statement, the Arsenal midfielder fiercely criticized Grindel and the DFB, accusing them of racism and claiming they had not done enough to protect him from discrimination.
III / III pic.twitter.com/c8aTzYOhWU
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
On Thursday, Grindel once again rejected claims that he had acted in a racist manner, saying such accusations were “hurtful”.
“The criticism has hurt me, and I am even more sorry that my colleagues, the many volunteers, grassroots and members of the DFB have been associated with racism,” wrote Grindel.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) July 23, 2018
“The values of the DFB are my values: diversity, solidarity, integration and anti-discrimination. These are values close to my heart.”
In the days after Özil’s statement, many have called for Grindel to resign too. On Thursday, the DFB president admitted that he had made mistakes, and that he could have been stronger in his condemnation of racism earlier in the summer.
“Of course I have been asking myself what I could have done differently,” Grindel wrote. “Looking back, I should have clearly stated what is unquestionable both for me and the association: that racist hostility in any form is unacceptable, intolerable and insufferable.
“That was true in the case of Jerome Boateng, and it is true for Mesut Özil. It is true for all players with an immigrant background.”
Two years ago, the DFB were forced to defend national team player Jerome Boateng, who has Ghanaian background, against comments from AfD politician Alexander Gauland. This week, Boateng came out in support of his former team-mate Özil.