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Italian Soccer League Criticized for Monkeys in Anti-Racism Campaign

A top official of Italy’s Serie A soccer league was forced to apologize for a recent anti-racism campaign painting, after people complained about its problematic imagery--monkeys. “We realize it was inappropriate,” said chief executive Luigi De Siervo, about the painting in a prepared statement. “What cannot be questioned is the strong and constant condemnation by Lega Serie A against all forms of discrimination and racism, and we are committed to eradicate this from our beloved league.”

The artist behind the painting, Simone Fugazzotto, said that his painting of three monkeys of various races was intended to convey the sentiment that humans are all the same race. But Fugazzotto failed to understand the impetus for the campaign, where several black players in Serie A and throughout European soccer have been subjected to racist chants and monkey references. These are all consistent with the broader racist sentiment that black players are somehow less than human.

So it’s no surprise that anti-discrimination advocacy group Fare called the painting “a sick joke.” Italian club AC Milan tweeted the following: “Art can be powerful, but we strongly disagree with the use of monkeys as images in the fight against racism and were surprised by the total lack of consultation.”

Officials at Serie A would be wise, when fighting racism and discrimination, to prioritize collaboration with those targeted by racism and discrimination. Or, failing that, to remember the first tenet of the Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm.

Possible Preaching Angle: It's good to try to fight injustice but one cannot righteously defend a community of people without being in relationship with them. If we propose or enact solutions without proper engagement and discussion, we risk making the situation worse.

Source: Associated Press, “Serie A CEO apologizes for use of monkey painting” USA Today (12-17-19)

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