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Juve’s Benatia reports racist abuse; TV investigation underway

Juventus FC v US Citta di Palermo - Serie A

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 17: Medhi Benatia of Juventus FC in action during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and US Citta di Palermo at Juventus Stadium on February 17, 2017 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

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ROME (AP) Italy’s national broadcaster has opened an investigation after another player in Italy claimed to have been subject to racist abuse, this time while being interviewed on live television.

Juventus defender Medhi Benatia was appearing on a Rai show via video link after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Torino and the Morocco international was connected to the studio through an earpiece when he heard a racist insult.

“Rai is sincerely sorry for the deplorable incident of racism that involved the Juventus player Benatia during our Calcio Champagne program and that fortunately was not heard by the viewers, as it did not go on air,” the national broadcaster said in a statement on Sunday.

“Rai has put into motion all attempts to identify who was responsible for what happened and at the moment technical analysis excludes that the unacceptable phrases were uttered by an employee of our company.”

The insult was not broadcast but Benatia heard it and asked: “Who said that in the background? I heard someone talking in the background. Who said that? I heard an insult.”

The Rai presenter then cut short the interview because of “technical difficulties.”

“The investigation nevertheless continues but considering the gravity of what happened Rai meanwhile offers our complete and total solidarity to the player and his club,” the statement added.

A Juventus press officer said that Benatia heard a racist insult concerning his nationality.

The incident comes just a week after Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch during a Serie A match in response to racist abuse.

Muntari told referee Daniele Minelli and his assistants several times about the chants from home fans in the final minute of the match at Cagliari. The official then showed the former Ghana midfielder a yellow card, which incensed Muntari so much that he walked off the pitch, leaving his side with 10 men throughout stoppage time. That resulted in a second booking and a red card.

The red card would have carried a one-match ban. Receiving no support from Pescara, Muntari was forced to lodge an appeal himself with assistance from the players’ union in Italy, and the ban was rescinded by the Italian soccer federation on Friday.