Cherif Traore: Benetton suspend player after racist ‘joke’ aimed at Italy prop | Rugby Union News #news

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Warning: This article may be upsetting, offensive and triggering to some readers; Cherif Traore used social media to outline what he describes as an “offensive gesture”; Benetton said they take a strong stance against racism; URC demands “full report” from club

Last Updated: 22/12/22 6:06pm

Cherif Traore has won 16 caps for Italy

Cherif Traore has won 16 caps for Italy

Benetton have suspended one of their players after prop Cherif Traore was given a rotten banana as a Christmas gift from a team-mate.

Traore, who has won 16 caps for Italy, said some players had laughed when he opened the present during Benetton’s Secret Santa.

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”.

Benetton issued two statements on Wednesday but made no suggestion they planned to investigate the incident or take action against the player responsible.

However, in a change of tone on Thursday, they issued a third statement saying the national sports prosecutors’ office will launch an investigation.

The statement read: “Benetton Rugby and the Italian Rugby Federation, in the aftermath of the affair involving some of the members of the franchise, wish to reiterate their firm condemnation of all forms of racism and discrimination, which do not and must not have any place within of the Italian rugby movement, of sport, of civil society.

“Benetton Rugby and the FIR inform that the Federal Prosecutor has launched the necessary investigations to ascertain the facts, as well as the collective and individual responsibilities, to protect the founding values and reputation of the game.

“Benetton Rugby has simultaneously decided to suspend one of its members as a precaution, for the entire duration of the investigations by the Public Prosecutor.”

Benetton did not name the player who has been suspended.

Traore received an apology from his Benetton team-mates Traore received an apology from his Benetton team-mates

Traore received an apology from his Benetton team-mates

Earlier on Thursday, the United Rugby Championship had ordered Benetton to take action against anyone involved in the racial abuse of Traore.

England prop Ellis Genge, Luther Burrell and Paolo Odogwu were among those voicing outrage.

“The URC has been in communication with Benetton regarding the incident first identified in a social media post of Cherif Traore the Italian international prop forward,” a statement read.

“Benetton have been asked to provide a full report on what has occurred and what meaningful action will be taken as a result.

“Racism and discrimination of any kind are abhorrent, completely unacceptable in society and are utterly counter to the values of the sport of rugby and the URC.”

All Benetton players were summoned to the club’s training ground on Wednesday afternoon where they apologised to Traore and were addressed by president Amerino Zatta.

“The meeting was an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my team-mates did when exchanging Christmas presents is purely the result of idiocy and nothing other,” Traore said.

“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.”

Traore, who emigrated to Italy from Africa as a seven-year-old, brought the abuse to light in a post on Instagram that was temporarily taken down.

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

“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.”

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