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Schalke chairman back to work following racist comments

BERLIN (AP) — Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies will resume his duties on Thursday following a three-month break after making racist comments in August. The Bundesliga team said Wednesday that Tönnies' scheduled comeback is "a return that the club's committees expressly welcome."

Tönnies had stepped down in response to anger and condemnation of comments he made at a public meeting in Paderborn on Aug. 1, when he said tax increases to fight climate change were wrong and that it was better to finance 20 power plants a year in Africa.

"Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark," Tönnies said in comments first reported by the Neue Westfälische local newspaper. The German soccer federation said it concurred with the general consensus that the comments were racist, but that Tönnies "was able to convincingly show that he was not a racist during the in-depth hearing and questioning."

"Irrespective of its classification as racist or discriminatory, the sentence used by Mr. Tönnies is a violation of the German soccer federation's principles," the federation's ethics committee said. Many Schalke fans had called on the 63-year-old Tönnies to resign despite his apology for the comments, which were widely condemned.

Tönnies, the Schalke chairman since 2001, had been speaking as head of the Tönnies Group, a meat-processing food giant with about 16,500 employees that specializes in the slaughter of pigs and cattle. The group posted revenues of 6.65 billion euros ($7.45 billion) last year.

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