Cherif Traore: Italy prop calls out Benetton Treviso team-mates for ‘racist’ joke | Rugby Union News

Cherif Traore, who has won 16 caps for Italy including during the 2022 Six Nations, used social media to outline what he describes as an “offensive gesture”; United Rugby Championship club Benetton said they take a strong stance against racism, but made no mention of an investigation

Last Updated: 21/12/22 7:39pm

Cherif Traore

Cherif Traore

Italy prop Cherif Traore has revealed he was given a rotten banana during Benetton’s Secret Santa in an incident that drew laughter from team-mates.

The Guinea-born 28-year-old, who has won 16 caps including during the 2022 Six Nations, used social media to outline what he described as an “offensive gesture”.

After initially responding by releasing a statement condemning all racism, the United Rugby Championship club later said the entire staff was summoned for a meeting at which the president and general manager addressed the squad, before Traore’s team-mates apologised to him.

Neither of Benetton’s statements suggested any further investigation would be carried out, or any action will be taken against the individual that was responsible for the incident.

On Wednesday morning, Traore wrote on Instagram: “Christmas is coming and as is traditional in a team, it’s Secret Santa time.

“A friendly and playful moment. A moment where you give anonymous gifts to your mates, even stingy, ironic ones.

“Yesterday, when it was my turn, I found a banana inside my present. A rotten banana inside a bag of moisture.

“Apart from calling the gesture offensive, what hurt me most was seeing most of my mates present laughing. As if everything is normal.

“I’m used to it. Or rather, I’ve had to get used to it, putting on a brave face whenever I hear racist jokes in order to try not to hate the people close to me. Yesterday was different though.

“Thankfully some comrades, especially foreigners, tried to support me. Outside Italy a gesture like this is severely condemned even in small instances and this time I want to say my piece.

“I have been up all night. Young guys from different backgrounds attended this Secret Santa.

“I have decided not to remain silent this time to ensure that episodes like this don’t happen again and to prevent other people finding themselves in my current situation in the future. And hoping the sender will learn a lesson….”

Traore arrived in Italy as a seven-year-old, making the journey from Guinea in west Africa with his family to join his father, who had already emigrated to Europe.

He has represented Italy at U20, A and senior levels, making his Azzurri debut against Japan in 2018 when Conor O’Shea was in charge.

Benetton’s initial statement read: “With reference to the post that appeared this morning on the social media of the Green and White player Cherif Traore, Benetton would like to reiterate that it has always condemned with the utmost firmness any expression of racism and/or form of discrimination.

“They are not part of our culture and do not represent our identity and our values. We have always proved it with deeds, not just with words, and we will continue to strongly support it.

“Similar behaviours have nothing to do with sport and in the face of episodes like this Benetton will always be on the side of respecting people, their culture, their ethnicity, their faith and their dignity.”

Benetton later said president Amerino Zatta and general manager Antonio Pavanello had called a meeting at which they “re-affirmed” to the squad the club’s “firm position of condemnation” towards racism.

The club’s second release also included a new statement from Traore, in which he said: “This afternoon’s meeting was an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my companions did on the occasion of exchanging Christmas presents is purely the result of idiocy and nothing other.

“I appreciate and accept his apology and that of the entire team. I’m happy with the gesture and I’m sure what happened will make the group even more solid. We are a family and as such we will continue to commit ourselves on and off the pitch, fighting, as we always have, against all forms of discrimination.”

Club president Zatta added: “What happened against Cherif does not in any way reflect our identity and the values ​​that the Benetton family has been carrying forward for years.

“I’m glad that Cherif accepted the apology, understanding the absurd stupidity of one of his team-mates. I am sure that this will strengthen the sense of cohesion within the group and that such a gesture will never again find fertile ground within our family.”

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