Italy rugby player reveals racially ‘offensive’ holiday gift

TREVISO, Italy (AP) — Italy rugby player Cherif Traore has received apologies from his Benetton Treviso teammates after he revealed that he was given a rotten banana during a Secret Santa exchange.

Traore, a 28-year-old prop who was born in Guinea, described the anonymous gift as an “offensive gesture” made worse by the laughter of his teammates “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,” Traore wrote Wednesday. “Yesterday was different, though.”

The rotten banana was inside a bag that had gained moisture. Traore, who is Black, said some of his foreign-born teammates tried to support him.

“I have been up all night. Young guys from different backgrounds attended this Secret Santa,” he wrote. “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…”

In response, Benetton said it takes a strong stance against racism, but the club’s initial statement made no mention of an investigation.

The club then issued a second statement that described a team meeting led by club president Amerino Zatta and general manager Antonio Pavanello. It said they reaffirmed the club’s stance against racism, and that players apologized to Traore.

The second statement included a quote from Traore in which he accepted the apologies. Separately, Traore posted a second Instagram message that discussed forgiveness and looking ahead to the new year.

The club also posted a video message from Traore on its Twitter account.

Traore has made 16 appearances for Italy’s national team including during the 2022 Six Nations tournament. He made his Azzurri debut against Japan in 2018.

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