ROME: AC Milan said it was “surprised by the total lack of consultation” after Serie A installed a painting featuring monkeys at its headquarters for a league-wide anti-racism campaign.
Roma also said it “was very surprised” by the move.
“We understand the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it,” Roma tweeted.
While black players are regularly subjected to monkey chants in games, artist Simone Fugazzotto said his painting featuring three monkeys to represent three different races was meant “to show that we are all the same race.”
The league revealed the painting on Monday at a presentation of its anti-racism campaign in Milan.
“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,” Milan tweeted on Tuesday.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) December 17, 2019
#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. pic.twitter.com/jVLImrgS0y
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) December 16, 2019
Racism has been a problem all season with offensive chants aimed at Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira, Kalidou Koulibaly and Mario Balotelli. All of the players targeted — except for Pjanic, who is Bosnian — are black, and many of the incidents have gone unpunished.
“True art is provocation,” the league said in a statement to The Associated Press late Monday. “The idea behind Fugazzotto’s artwork is that whoever shouts racist chants regresses to his primitive status of being a monkey.
“Serie A decided that every year it will have a different artist interpret the damage caused by racism,” the league added. “Simone Fugazzotto, a witness to the whistles at Koulibaly at the San Siro, made a provocative work in which the monkeys are actually the racist fans.”
Fare, soccer’s leading discrimination monitoring group, called the use of the painting “a sick joke” and “an outrage,” adding it “will be counter-productive and continue the dehumanization of people of African heritage. ... It is difficult to see what Serie A was thinking, who did they consult? It is time for the progressive clubs in the league to make their voice heard.”
AC Milan's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, told the BBC the images "came as a surprise, were insensitive and badly timed."
The former Arsenal CEO told Radio 5 Live: "It is quite obvious that those subtleties would be lost in the communication and it is a very clumsy way of trying to launch what is actually what we hope will prove to be an affective campaign to drive racism out of Italian football.
"There is a real lack of process around these images. I find it difficult to explain. It does speak to a lack of self awareness and awareness of the sensitivities of the history.
"The Italian league needs to listen to the victims of this behaviour, needs to listen to experts in this field and needs to understand that these are not answers that can be imposed from some kind of theoretical leadership in the sky that has no experience of them.
"You have to listen and understand and engage with others that are on the same journey," he added.
Former Premier League defender Sylvain Distin also told the BBC that he did not understand "how you can fight racism with something that looks like racism."
"It just doesn't make any sense to me, to the point that I went and tried to read as many interviews with the artist as I could," the former Everton and Manchester City player said on Radio 5 Live.
"It's true that he did a lot of portraits and painting and art around monkeys for five or six years and, from what the artist was saying, it was just his way to say that we are all monkeys - but it just doesn't look right.
"I just really don't get it. Are they trying to make things so big that all the little incidents that happen every weekend in Italy just look normal? I don't understand what they expect, what kind of reaction do you expect with this kind of act? I just don't get it, I don't see the point," he said.