Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo has defended the decision to move on-pitch microphones to hide racist chants from fans, saying it's not censorship to get the "best value out of a product."
Italian newspaper La Repubblica (h/t Football Italia) obtained a tape of De Siervo telling club representatives that directors have been instructed to turn off the microphones, a measure taken after the New York Times published a story on Italy being, in De Siervo's words, the "new front of racism in football."
When the paper reached out to him and asked if he was trying to whitewash racism, De Siervo went on the defensive:
"In the audio, you hear only a fraction of the reasoning. We were talking about the television production and noting we are not journalists trying to find news, but rather producing a spectacle to be enjoyed and making the most appetising product.
"There are police, Lega Serie A inspectors and the Federation, as well as the referees, whose job it is to track and document incidents of racism."
"What we were doing was considering how TV coverage can best explain the beauty of Italian football. We do that continually and the basic idea is to avoid dwelling on ugly incidents.
"Therefore, we 'suspended' for two rounds the director who in Cagliari spent 40 seconds during a VAR check focused on the home fans who during that time had done all sorts of terrible things. In the same vein, we dropped the director who spent too long capturing the homage that the Inter fans had put up to Diabolik (the Lazio ultras killed for being the head of a drugs gang, ndr).
"This is not censorship! We are talking about how to get the best value out of a product. We’d just had to deal with that big article in the New York Times that called Italy the new front of racism in football."
ESPN's Gabriele Marcotti thought his defence didn't help much:
Serie A has been plagued by a series of high-profile racist incidents the last few seasons. In September, Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku was the target of chants in the win over Cagliari, and even a portion of the Nerazzurri fans came to the defence of the Sardinians, per Football Italia.
In addition, pundit Luciano Passirani was banned from TV show Qui Studio a Voi Stadio for saying teams could only stop the Belgian by giving him 10 bananas to eat.
Hellas Verona banned ultra leader Luca Castellini after he said Mario Balotelli could never be "completely Italian." Per the Guardian, the Brescia striker was racially abused during his team's loss in Verona on November 3.
In 2018, Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi said he was racially abused during an away match at Cagliari:
The following season, those same fans targeted Moise Kean, and team-mate Leonardo Bonucci said the now-Everton man was partly to blame.
Serie A recently released an open letter backed by all clubs, acknowledging the league has a "serious problem with racism" and promising a "comprehensive and robust Serie A anti-racism policy."