Serie A derided for monkeys painting in anti-racism campaign

Serie A derided for monkeys painting in anti-racism campaign
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A view of the three paintings, part of a new campaign against racism launched by the Italian soccer league in Milan, Italy, Monday. (ANSA via AP)
Serie A derided for monkeys painting in anti-racism campaign
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The league revealed the painting on Monday at a presentation of its anti-racism campaign in Milan. (Serie A)
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Updated 17 December 2019

Serie A derided for monkeys painting in anti-racism campaign

Serie A derided for monkeys painting in anti-racism campaign
  • The league revealed the painting on Monday at a presentation of its anti-racism campaign in Milan
  • Racism has been a problem all season in Italy

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.

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.


Saleh’s hiring by Jets source of pride for Muslim community

Saleh’s hiring by Jets source of pride for Muslim community
Updated 52 min 29 sec ago

Saleh’s hiring by Jets source of pride for Muslim community

Saleh’s hiring by Jets source of pride for Muslim community
  • The New York Jets’ new head coach has families and community leaders excited in neighborhoods all across the US
  • The 41-year-old Saleh, expected to be formally introduced next week by the Jets, is the son of Lebanese parents and grew up in Detroit

NEW YORK: Robert Saleh has made history that extends far beyond any football field.
The New York Jets’ new head coach has families and community leaders excited in neighborhoods all across the country, celebrating the first known Muslim American to hold that position in the NFL.
That’s a source of great pride for a group that has been generally underrepresented in the league’s on-field leadership roles.
“It’s something that shows the growing diversity of our nation, the inclusion we’re trying to achieve at all levels of our society,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “And I think it’s a very positive sign.”
The 41-year-old Saleh, expected to be formally introduced next week by the Jets, is the son of Lebanese parents and grew up in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest Muslim population in the United States per capita.
“I think he’s just a trailblazer for a lot of coaches who are Muslim, to let them know that they do have a chance to be a head coach,” said Lions offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, a practicing Muslim who has played in the NFL for eight seasons — including his first two with the Jets.
“He shows them you do have a chance to be a defensive coordinator, you do have a chance to grow up and have a job at the professional level,” Aboushi added. “As long as you’re professional and you’re passionate about it like he is, I think a lot of people will look to him as a trailblazer, as far as everyone feeling like they could do it themselves and it’s an attainable dream.”
After Saleh’s college playing career as a tight end at Northern Michigan ended, he got his start in coaching by working as an assistant at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia before being hired as a defensive intern by the Houston Texans in 2005.
Then came stints with Seattle and Jacksonville before Saleh became San Francisco’s defensive coordinator in 2017, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last year with his No. 2-ranked unit. He was a popular candidate among the seven teams looking for a new coach this offseason, and quickly emerged as the favorite for the Jets job.
Saleh, known for his energy on the sideline and being well-liked by players, impressed the Jets during his first remote interview. He was flown in a few days later for an in-person meeting with Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, president Hymie Elhai and general manager Joe Douglas at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.
After a two-day visit, Saleh left to meet with Philadelphia for its coaching vacancy — but the Jets knew they found their new coach. The team announced Thursday night the sides reached an agreement in principle.
“As a pioneer in the sports world, Saleh will serve as an inspiration to many young American Muslims,” Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of CAIR’s New Jersey chapter, said in email to The Associated Press. “In addition to the positive impact that he’ll have on Muslims, Saleh’s presence in the field and on the screen will remind the rest of America that Muslims are a part of the fabric of this nation and proudly contribute to society. It’s a step toward tearing down walls and building bridges.
“Welcome to Jersey, brother!”
Ahmed Mohamed, the legal director of CAIR’s New York chapter, congratulated the Jets and Saleh for what he called a “historic hiring in the National Football League.” He’s optimistic it’s a sign of increasing inclusion and recognition of the Muslim community.
“For all the Muslim youth who may be told they don’t belong or can’t do something because of how they pray, we hope that when they see Mr. Saleh on national television, they will say to themselves that anything is possible and will reach for the stars,” Mohamed said in an email to the AP. “We hope Mr. Saleh’s hiring opens the door for other American Muslims in sports.”
Saleh is believed to be the third Arab American to become a head coach in the NFL. He follows Abe Gibron, who led Chicago from 1972-74, and Rich Kotite, who coached the Eagles (1991-94) and Jets (1995-96) — both of whom also had Lebanese roots.
Saleh is also just the fourth active NFL head coach who is a minority, joining Miami’s Brian Flores, Washington’s Ron Rivera and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.
“Robert Saleh has made history on the field and off,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Friday night. “Now he’s knocking down barriers in our own backyard. Congrats, Coach!”
While Saleh’s focus will be on restoring the Jets to respectability and not necessarily being an inspiration, he has provided a path for others to someday follow.
“Any person in a new job, their first goal is going to be performance in their job,” Hooper said. “But I think a secondary consideration might be being an example to Muslim and Arab American youth around the country, that this kind of inclusion and respect for diversity is possible.
“But I don’t think he got the job because of his ethnic or religious background. He got this job because he’s good at what he does.”