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Serie A CEO Apologises for Controversial Anti-Racism Campaign Featuring Monkeys

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2019

MILAN, ITALY - AUGUST 26: Serie A Tim logo on the shirt of Mauro Icardi of Internazionale  during the Italian Serie A   match between Internazionale v Torino at the San Siro on August 26, 2018 in Milan Italy (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo has apologised for the league's latest racism controversy, which saw artwork featuring monkeys used in an anti-racism campaign.Β 

The campaign has been widely criticised, and while De Siervo tried to explain the reasoning behind the decision, he has also apologised, per Football Italia:

"I apologise to anyone who was offended by the work created by Simone Fugazzotto last May, for the Coppa Italia Final.

"Despite the artist explaining that the meaning of his creation was really a message against racism, the work has still appeared questionable to many.

"What cannot be questioned is the strong and constant condemnation by Lega Serie A against all forms of discrimination and racism, which we are committed to eradicating from our league."

ROME, ITALY - MAY 14:  Luigi De Siervo attends during the A-Words at Ara Pacis on May 14, 2019 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images for Lega Serie A)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Football Italia also spoke with the artist, who explained he always uses monkey motifs in his work and believes art "creates discussion and controversy." He also likened his work to that of Oliviero Toscani, who used the theme of discrimination in ads for Benetton.

Here's a look at the artwork:

footballitalia @footballitalia

#SerieA CEO Luigi De Siervo apologises for the offence caused by the League’s anti-racism initiative, which featured monkeys https://t.co/ZtFwDzlGaz #NoToRacism #KickItOut https://t.co/4iancJqKBE

While both De Siervo and Fugazzotto explained the art was supposed to be anti-racism, it was still widely panned. AS Roma and AC Milan, the two Serie A clubs who have been most vocal about the league's problems with racism, both made statements:

AS Roma English @ASRomaEN

#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. https://t.co/jVLImrgS0y

AC Milan @acmilan

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. @SerieA_EN https://t.co/M7wFjhsfj2

The latest controversy comes less than two weeks after a similar blunder from newspaper Corriere dello Sport, who used the term "Black Friday" along with a photo of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling to promote an anti-racism campaign ahead of a match between Roma and Inter Milan.

Unlike De Siervo, the paper didn't apologise, but instead lashed out at the critics, defending their headline. In a joint statement, Roma and Milan announced a total ban on the paper and its reporters for the rest of 2019.

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 06: Christopher Smalling  of As Roma  talking with Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale after the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and AS Roma at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 6, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by MB Media/G
MB Media/Getty Images

De Siervo also found himself in hot water for a separate incident earlier this month. La Repubblica (h/t Football Italia) got hold of a tape in which the CEO told club representatives that directors have been instructed to shut down microphones if they pick up racist chanting in the stands.

The measure was taken after a New York Times article on Italy's many problems with racism in football.