Football: Dutch probe 'racist' comments after Leroy Fer posts Instagram selfie

People gather during a demonstration against the tradition of 'Zwarte Piet' or "Black Pete" the black-faced companion of Sinterklaas or Sain Nicholas in Amsterdam, on Nov 16, 2014. The figure of Black Pete, the traditional black-faced companion of Sa
People gather during a demonstration against the tradition of 'Zwarte Piet' or "Black Pete" the black-faced companion of Sinterklaas or Sain Nicholas in Amsterdam, on Nov 16, 2014. The figure of Black Pete, the traditional black-faced companion of Saint Nicolas during the Sinterklaas or Saint Nicolas festival celebrated on the evening of Dec 5, has become the subject of much controversy in recent years as some people believe it to be a racist caricature. -- PHOTO: AFP

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch prosecutors are probing racism claims after a social media "selfie" posted by Dutch international footballer Leroy Fer drew a slew of distasteful comments, the Prosecutor's Office said on Monday.

Fer, one of the black players in the Dutch national football squad posted the picture on Instagram on Friday, showing him and eight other black members of the Oranje (Orange) Eleven as the Dutch team is known.

However, the picture drew a number of negative comments including comparing the players to apes and slaves, as well as the now controversial "Black Pete" figure, a topic of heated debate that has divided the Netherlands.

"The Public Prosecutor's office (OM) have opened a preliminary investigation to gather all the facts," spokesman Evert Boerstra said.

"Once we have all the facts a decision will be taken whether to prosecute," he said.

The Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) strongly condemned the comments and asked the OM to take steps against those who made the comments.

"The KNVB are disgusted by the reactions to Leroy Fer's selfie. Football is for everybody and it's particularly the Dutch Eleven that binds all Dutch citizens together," it said on its website.

"We are of the opinion that those who made the comments should be prosecuted," the KNVB said.

Dutch police arrested 90 people over the weekend protesting for and against the Black Pete figure at the start of the traditional gift-giving festival of Saint Nicholas.

The debate around Black Pete, the jolly sidekick of the Dutch Saint Nicholas, called Zwarte Piet in Dutch, has exposed the sensitive subject of racism, in the liberal-minded Netherlands.

Many say that Pete - traditionally dressed in a gaudy medieval costume with a blackened face, red lips and an afro wig - is a racist throwback to colonial times.

Black Pete's defenders say he is black from coming down the chimney and refuse to admit there might be anything racist about the historic character.