The row erupted as one of the team’s sponsors cut its ties over the appointment of Malky Mackay, who the Football Association said could still face charges over allegations of discriminatory text messages.
Although he later apologised, Whelan, too, could be in danger of being hauled before the FA after he said “Jewish people chase money more than anybody else” and said there was “nothing bad” about referring to the Chinese as “chinks”.
The 77-year-old was expanding on his justification for hiring former Cardiff boss Mackay, himself accused of using racist, sexist, anti-semitic and homophobic terms in private correspondence.
One of Mackay’s alleged text messages, making reference to a Jewish football agent, said: “Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers.”
Whelan said Mackay was merely asserting that Jewish people “love money”. “The Jews don’t like losing money,” he told the Guardian. “Nobody likes losing money.”
He added: “Do you think Jewish people chase money a little bit more than we do? I think they are very shrewd. I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”
Defending another of Mackay’s alleged texts, which referred to Cardiff’s Malaysian regime as “chinks”, Whelan said: “There is nothing bad about doing that. It is like calling the British Brits, or the Irish paddies. If any Englishman said he has never called a Chinaman a chink he is lying.”
Whelan’s comments drew condemnation from Jewish and Chinese community leaders.
Simon Johnson, the Jewish Leadership Council chief executive and former FA and Premier League official, said Mackay and Whelan had used “some of the worst old-fashioned tropes” for “anti-semitism and stereotyping of Jewish people”, while Manchester Chinese Centre director Jenny Wong said the use of “chink” was “an insult” and “racist”.
Whelan last night apologised. “I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of Jewish friends,” said Whelan. “It wasn’t my intention to offend anyone but if I have then please accept my apology. I must have given 50 interviews today and I did not mean to insult a single person.”
Earlier yesterday kitchen company Premier Range, whose name appears on the back of Wigan shirts, pulled its sponsorship in protest at the appointment of Mackay.
“A team that would employ a man who expresses views such as these is not the kind of team Premier Range wish to deal with,” the firm said in a statement.
The FA also responded to Whelan’s claim on Wednesday that there was “nothing in the pipeline” by way of disciplinary action due to Mackay over the text message allegations, which were made in August.
“The FA is still investigating whether these messages indicate a culture in which other acts of a discriminatory nature may have taken place,” a statement said. “This process inevitably takes time. We fully appreciate the need to act expeditiously on this matter. However it remains a complex investigation.”