Benetton has been ordered by the United Rugby Championship to take action against anyone involved in Cherif Traorè’s racist abuse.
Italian gag Traorè revealed on social media that he was given a rotten banana in the club’s Secret Santa and his teammates responded to the present by laughing, leaving him feeling “hurt”.
Benetton has been condemned for their weak response to the incident with Ellis Genge, Luther Burrell and Paolo Odogwu among those expressing outrage.
An initial statement from Benetton made no mention of an investigation or possible penalty and while the side have since apologized to Traorè, it is the Guinean-born 28-year-old who has publicly challenged the club’s attempt to draw a line. draw the controversy. The URC has now demanded that Benetton launch a full investigation in the expectation of punishing those responsible.
“The URC has been in contact with Benetton regarding the incident first identified in a social media post from Italian international prop-forward Cherif Traorè,” a statement said. “Benetton has been asked to provide a full report on what happened and what meaningful action will be taken in response.
“Racism and discrimination of any kind are abhorrent, completely unacceptable in society and are completely against the values of the sport of rugby and the URC.”
URC’s intervention comes after England mainstay Genge insisted there must be implications for the racial discrimination of a player who has won 16 caps for Italy, including two appearances in this year’s Six Nations.
“Not well done, totally fine, ‘gifting’ a ‘teammate’ a rotten banana for Secret Santa is no problem and a simple apology will suffice!” Genge wrote on Twitter. “If there is no further action from Benetton then everything we have done for ‘rugby against racism’ has been a tick for most.”
Burrell, whose former club Newcastle has come under investigation following revelations of the racist abuse faced by England’s centre, described Traore’s treatment as “inhumane”. “No one should put up with this abhorrent behavior,” Burrell wrote on Twitter.
“It really saddens me, I can only imagine that he feels left out, that his teammates act like this, that they chuckle as he opens a wrapped banana as a gift, it’s cruel, it’s inhumane… now it’s harm reduction for them.”
Paolo Odogwu, the former wasp center of Stade Français, questioned why Traorè was asked to explain the consequences of the incident in a video posted on social media.
“The insane lack of accountability here doesn’t really feel like ‘family’ to let the person who has already suffered do the PR,” Odogwu said on Twitter.
All Benetton players were called to the United Rugby Championship club’s training ground on Wednesday afternoon, where they apologized to Traorè and were addressed by president Amerino Zatta.
“The meeting was an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my teammates did when exchanging Christmas presents is purely the result of idiocy and nothing else,” said Traorè. “I appreciate and accept his apology and that of the whole team. I am happy with the gesture and I am sure that what happened will bring the group even closer together.
“We are a family and that is why we will continue to work on and off the field and fight, as always, against all forms of discrimination.”
Traorè, who immigrated to Italy from West Africa at the age of seven, exposed the abuse in an Instagram post that was temporarily removed.
“Yesterday, when it was my turn, I found a banana in my present. A rotten banana in a bag of liquid,” he said. “Besides calling the gesture offensive, what hurt me most was seeing most of my friends present laughing. Like everything is normal.
“I’m used to it. Or rather, I’ve had to get used to putting on a brave face when I hear racist jokes, trying not to hate the people around me. Yesterday was different though.
“Fortunately, some comrades, especially foreigners, tried to support me. Outside of Italy such a gesture is severely condemned even in minor cases and this time I want to have my say.”