Rome — A Black Italian rugby player accused his team mates of racism on Wednesday after they gave him a “rotten banana” during a Secret Santa anonymous gift exchange.
Cherif Traore wrote on Instagram that he received the unwanted present, inside a rubbish bag, during a Christmas dinner with fellow Benetton Treviso players.
“Apart from finding it an offensive gesture, what hurt me the most was to see that most of my teammates who were present were laughing. As if it was all normal,” he said.
“I haven’t slept all night,” the 28-year-old added.
Traore was born in Guinea but has lived in Italy since the age of seven. He plays prop for the northern Treviso club and for the Italian national team.
He said he normally does not react to “racist jokes” in order not to make enemies.
“I decided not to keep quiet this time to ensure that episodes like this do not happen again,” he said, adding that such behaviour would be “seriously condemned outside of Italy”.
Benetton Rugby said in a statement they had “always condemned with the utmost firmness any expression of racism and/or form of discrimination” and the incident involving Traore “has nothing to do with sport”.
It added that it will always stand for “respecting people, their culture, their ethnicity, their faith and their dignity”.
Later, the club said the whole team was summoned for a meeting in which players offered their apologies to Traore, who accepted them.
Traore said in a club statement the gift was an act of “idiocy” by a single teammate.
“I appreciated and accepted his apologies and those of the entire squad.”
There have been numerous incidents of Black athletes in Italy suffering racist abuse.
In football, Black players are routinely jeered by fans, while in October Paola Egonu, a Black volleyball player, announced she was taking a break from the Italy national team following comments questioning her nationality.