Acerbi won’t be penalized for alleged racial abuse of Juan Jesus. Napoli calls ruling ‘astonishing’

MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan defender Francesco Acerbi will not face sanctions for allegedly racially abusing Napoli’s Juan Jesus in a Serie A match because there wasn’t enough proof.

The alleged incident on March 17 was revealed when Juan Jesus told the referee Acerbi directed a racial slur at him.

Acerbi has repeatedly denied he used the offensive word.

The Italian soccer federation prosecutor questioned the players and witnesses last week. He reported to the Italian league sporting judge, who also studied images from the match, as well as audio from the referee and VAR, before announcing the decision on Tuesday.

Gerardo Mastrandrea said in a lengthy statement that while it was clear Acerbi insulted Juan Jesus, the “minimum level of reasonable certainty” had not been reached that it was of a racial nature.

Napoli called Tuesday’s decision “astonishing.”

“Napoli will no longer take part in anti-racism and anti-discrimination initiatives run by football institutions that are merely symbolic, but we will continue to organize them ourselves, as we have always done, with renewed conviction and determination,” the club said in a statement.

The club wrote “I’m with JJ” on its statement and on X posted a photo of a raised fist — which Juan Jesus also added to his Instagram account.

If Acerbi was found guilty, he would have faced a minimum 10-match ban that would have ruled the Italy international out of the rest of the season and most likely the European Championship.

Acerbi was part of the Italy squad that won Euro 2020 although he didn’t play in the quarterfinal, semifinal or final.

The 36-year-old Acerbi could have also faced further sanctions from Inter, which was reportedly considering cutting ties with the player if he was found guilty.

Juan Jesus, a 32-year-old Black Brazilian, was visibly upset when he walked up to the referee during the second half at San Siro and was also pointing at his shirt sleeve which had a ‘Keep Racism Out’ badge — as part of the league’s anti-racism campaign.

Juan Jesus said after the match that Acerbi apologized and seemed to wish to put the matter behind him, adding, “What happens on the field, stays on the field … he is a good guy.”

Acerbi was sent home from the Italy training camp the next day — ahead of friendlies against Venezuela and Ecuador — although coach Luciano Spalletti and the players apparently agreed “there was no defamatory, denigrating or racist intent on his part.”

Acerbi then told reporters he had been misunderstood, prompting Juan Jesus to issue a statement on Instagram about the “despicable matter” and revealing what he alleged the Inter defender said to him.


AP soccer:

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