Italy’s Serie A chief apologized Tuesday for the ape artwork used for its supposedly anti-racism campaign after it was widely criticized since its official release the day before.
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The imagery by artist Simone Fugazzotto featured three apes with different color eyes and detailing.
“We realized it was inappropriate,” the league’s chief executive Luigi De Siervo said in a statement on Tuesday.
Racism has been recurrent in Italy's football matches during this season, with fans often shouting monkey chants to Black players in the stadium.
Italian clubs AS Roma and AC Milan have criticized the choice of imagery that the league initially said “aims to spread the values of integration, multiculturalism and brotherhood.”
Fugazzotto, who uses apes in much of his work, defended his creation, saying “we are all monkeys.”
"Everyone was making the sound of monkeys at Koulibaly, a player I respect," Fugazzotto told the Serie A website, referring to Napoli's Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly.
"I've always been painting monkeys for five to six years, so I thought I'd make this work to teach that we're all apes. So I made the western monkey -- white with blue eyes -- the Asian monkey - with almond eyes - and the black monkey in the middle, which is where everything comes from, this is what the evolutionary theory tells us."
"The monkey becomes the spark to teach everyone that there is no difference. It's not that one is man and one is monkey. At this point, we are all monkeys ... if they really feel the need to tell a Black (player) that he is one," he told in an interview with ANSA.
However, the campaign was widespreadly condemned among top figures of Italian and international football.
Ex-British player Stan Collymore criticized it by saying "fantastic to see Serie A anti racism campaign posters ( yes, it's really real). Maybe get the mascots to Black up as a finishing touch."