A popular London nightclub which allegedly barred a group of American football NFL stars for being “too urban” is being accused of racial profiling.

The New Orleans Saints team members had booked a table at Cirque le Soir nightclub in Soho, but said on arrival the bouncer turned them away for being “six big guys” and “too urban” – a phrase often used as a euphemism for black.

The nightclub has since denied it would turn anyone away based on ethnicity, but has a policy of not admitting all-male groups.

Mark Ingram Jr, 27, a running back, was with Sterling Moore, 27, BW Webb, 26, Vonn Bell, 22, all defensive players, and two friends when they tried to get into the club on Monday.

The players were visiting London in preparation for their game at Wembley in October against the Miami Dolphins as part of the NFL’s international series.

Ingram tweeted: “We pull up to Cirque le Soir where we have reservations and this is what they tell us. They told us we were ‘six big guys’ that are too ‘urban’ but nobody taller than 5’11!”

Following the tweet, the hashtag #TooUrban began trending on Twitter. Many have accused the club of racial profiling.

The club is a favorite with US music stars including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

In response to criticism, a nightclub spokesperson said: “All of the team at Cirque le Soir are really upset by the suggestion that there was anything malicious in our turning away of Mark Ingram and his friends. We proudly celebrate diversity, not only as part of our shows, but as part of who we are.

“We would not dismiss anyone as ‘too urban’ and we would not turn anyone away on the basis of their ethnicity, sexuality or any other characteristic, other than those expressed in our door policy.

“Admitting an all-male group goes against our policy and is clearly stated on Facebook and all reservation confirmation emails.”

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