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Serie A criticized for use of monkeys in anti-racism art

Social Football Summit 2019

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 20: The managing director of the Lega di Serie A, Luigi De Siervo attends the Social Football Summit at Olympic Stadium on November 20, 2019 in Rome, Italy. Social Football Summit is an international event focused on digital and social media marketing, brand strategy and innovation in the football industry. (Photo by Stefano Montesi - Corbis/ Getty Images)

Corbis via Getty Images

Serie A launched a new anti-racism campaign on Tuesday, but it only served to further criticism of the league’s inability to combat a self-admitted systemic racism issue throughout the Italian leagues.

The league’s new campaign was earmarked by “No To Racism” posters that depicted three monkeys with painted faces in an effort to show, as artist Simone Fugazzotto said, “we are all monkeys.” Instead, the artwork, which was promoted by the league and will be hung at the Serie A headquarters in Milan, has drawn heavy criticism from anti-racism groups.

“Kick It Out,” the anti-racism campaign supported by UEFA and the English FA, called the artwork “completely inappropriate” and said it “undermines any positive intent and will be counter-productive.”

The anti-racism network FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) went a step further, blasting the artwork as “a sick joke.”

“These creations are an outrage,” FARE said in a statement. “They will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanization of people of African heritage. It is time for the progressive clubs in the league to make their voice heard.”

Racism in Italy has become a huge talking point over the past few years, with many black players like Mario Balotelli, Romelu Lukaku, Kalidou Koulibaly, and others subjected to abuse on multiple occasions. Serie A clubs themselves admitted three weeks ago in an open letter that the league has a “serious problem” about which they could “no longer stay silent.”

Poster artist Fugazzotto attempted to defend his work as a product of his experiences of racism in Italian football, saying, “I decided to portray monkeys to talk about racism because they are the metaphor for human beings. Last year I was at the stadium to see Inter versus Napoli and I felt humiliated, everyone was shouting ‘monkey’ at Koulibaly, a player I respect. I’ve always been painting monkeys for five to six years, so I thought I’d make this work to teach that we’re all apes, I made the western monkey with blue and white eyes, the Asian monkey with almond-shaped eyes and the black monkey positioned in the centre, where everything comes from. The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference, there is no man or monkey, we are all alike. If anything we are all monkeys.”

AS Roma, one of the more outspoken clubs regarding social issues in Italy, posted a message on the club’s official Twitter account that condemned the images, saying, “#ASRoma was very surprised to see what appears to be an anti-racist campaign from Serie A featuring painted monkeys on social media today. We understand the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it.”

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