While discussing potential tax increases to fight climate change, 63-year-old Tönnies said it would be 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," he told a gathering of 1,600 audiences at an event in Paderborn.
At the time, the club admitted their chairman’s comments went against the club's anti-discrimination policy but after an extraordinary meeting on the incident, the honorary committee concluded that the allegation of racism is unfounded."
Tönnies comments were widely interpreted as racist and the 63-year-old later apologized both in a statement issued by Schalke and on Twitter, where he said: "I am for an open and diverse society. I am sorry for the comment on the large number of children in Africa.
"I am 1,000 percent behind our club values. This includes the fight against racism, discrimination and exclusion. On the basis of that I expressly wish to excuse myself. It was wrong, rash and thoughtless and in no way in line with our values. I am very sorry."
Regardless of Tönnies contrition, the club appears to be toeing the self-preservation route, Schalke released a statement saying that it would "not allow the reputation of the club to be reduced to one discriminatory statement."
"We are aware of the damage that the club has suffered in the last few days," the statement read. "We will work more intensely to make it clear inside and outside the club that Schalke stands for the values of a tolerant, free and multicultural society."
The club called on "the members, fans and leadership to focus on the essential: the club."
"We stress that we are always, everywhere and at all times against racism and every other form of discrimination. The club's values are its greatest asset and stand above anything and everything."