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KSI apologises for use of racial slur in ‘Countdown’-inspired video

The YouTuber sparked outrage with the discriminatory language

By Joe Goggins

KSI in a YouTube still, March 2023
KSI has apologised after sparking a fierce backlash. (Photo: YouTube)

KSI has apologised after using a racist slur in a YouTube video.

The rapper, entrepreneur and internet personality, real name Olajide William Olatunji, used a four-letter word insulting to those of Pakistani origin in a video with his YouTube collective The Sidemen, in a cup that saw him attempting to assemble words from random letters in the style of the long-running game show Countdown.

Having used the slur as part of the game, he was met with a fierce online backlash, prompting him to offer an apology on his Twitter account today (April 3). “I wanna apologise for saying a racial slur in a recent Sidemen video,” his message began. 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,” he continued. “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 Sidemen have a YouTube following of more than 18 million, in addition to KSI‘s own subscribers, which number more than 16 million. Their videos routinely rack up seven-figure view counts, with the size and reach of their platform highlighted by the teacher and broadcaster Mahreen Baig in a tweet that preceded KSI’s apology. 

“This is horrifically disappointing from KSI and his crew,” she said, quote-tweeting a clip of KSI using the slur. “So many of my students look up to these guys and they’re casually throwing around a word that has consistently been used to bully and attack South Asians. This isn’t comedy.”

DJ Bobby Friction concurred in his own tweet, saying: “I had this racial slur thrown at me & got physical beats by racists for my entire childhood. Genuinely upset that KSI (a guy my children love) did this & thought it was funny. The rest of them laughing can go f**k themselves too. People dehumanising brown people like it normal.”

KSI had previously shied away from the responsibilities of a role model in an interview with BBC Newsbeat last December. “I always say that to my audience: don’t put me on a pedestal,” he said in response to a question about the following enjoyed by the suspected human trafficker Andrew Tate. “Like, I am not the GOAT. I don’t want people to worship me.”