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Serie A is starting to take more drastic steps in the face of racist abuse from its fans, and it’s getting support from the top.
After Roma gave a lifetime ban to a fan who sent racist messages on Instagram to defender Juan Jesus, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted out support for the club.
“The person who insulted Juan Jesus yesterday has no passion for sport: let him stay out of sports stadiums for life!” the tweet roughly translates.
Serie A has faced backlash over the past few months for how it has failed to handle racist fans. This should be a step in the right direction, although the league will have to prove it can follow through on threats to fans.
What happened to Juan Jesus?
Jesus, a 28-year-old black defender from Brazil, has played for Roma since 2016 and helped the team to a 2-2-1 start, which is good for 7th in Serie A.
Earlier this week, he received racist messages from a since-deleted Instagram account, which he screenshot and posted to his Instagram story. After tagging his team in the post, Roma took notice and reported the account to the police.
Roma has since called out Serie A to take racism more seriously by implementing a zero-tolerance policy, although it remains to be seen how effectively it will ban specific fans from the stadium. In the NFL, a pair of Buffalo Bills fans who were banned for throwing objects on the field proudly admit they still go to games.
Racism continues to plague Serie A
It’s not unique to Italy, and it’s nothing new, but racism continues to be a blight on the sport of soccer.
Calgiari fans have been particularly bad, highlighted by a September incident when Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku was harrassed by fans, who chanted monkey noises at him. The league opted not to punish Calgiari at all, since they did not view the fans as being “discriminatory.”
Calgiari fans have also been abusive towards Franck Kessie, Moise Keon, Blaise Matuidi and Sulley Muntari over the last several years.
Things have gotten so bad that a game between Fiorentina and Atalanta had to be briefly suspended for a referee to warn the crowd over the loudspeaker to stop being racist. FIFA president Gianni Infantino called the explosion of racist behavior “very serious” and said he was considering more drastic penalties, but critics have said Serie A has not been willing to go far enough.
After Calgiari was not given any punishment, anti-discrimination group Fare called out European soccer, saying that “the rot is deep” and that Italy “is simply not fit for purpose.” They specifically cited no visible campaigns by the league as well as apathy and prejudice among the media.
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