Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, condemned for a “racist” post on his Instgram page, apologized on Twitter Tuesday morning. He wrote:
I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humor. I now understand that out of context may have the opposite effect. Not all Mexicans have mustaches, not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money. I used a cartoon done by someone else because it has Super Mario and I thought it was funny and not offensive. Again, I’m sorry.
Balotelli had created an Instagram page of computer-game character Mario, then posted the headline, “Don’t be a racist!” The text below read, “Be like Mario, he’s an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English, and looks like a Mexican… He jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”
Balotelli initially defended his post from those criticizing him, tweeting, “My Mom is Jewish so all of you shut up please.” He followed that by tweeting, “my unlucky moment.”
Kick It Out, an anti-discrimination group, had told BBC Sport: “Kick It Out has been made aware of Mario Balotelli’s Instagram post by a Twitter user and has now forwarded it on to the FA to look into the matter.” The Football Association (FA) then contacted Balotelli and told him he had until 18:00 GMT on Friday to respond. A representative for Balotelli’s Liverpool team stated, “We are aware of the posting which has since been promptly deleted by the player. We will be speaking to the player about the issue.”
Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, a former FA member, said, “We abhor all forms of racism, wherever it is found. We call upon the FA to investigate this offensive social media post and to take action if appropriate if we are to succeed in kicking racism out of football.” The FA bans its members for a minimum of five games for race-related breaches of rules is five games.
Sports media trainer Alec Wilkinson spoke of the arrogance of some athletes regarding their behavior. He said, “There are those that are famous, earn lots of money, with a sky-high profile, who think ‘What can you teach me? I can say what I like, it won’t damage me.’ We spend a lot of time explaining to them it’s good for them to take the pressure off themselves, to understand how the media works, how you can offend people.”
Oddly enough, Balotelli has experienced racism directed at him well before his own excursion into racist territory. Last September, while Leicester City defeated Manchester United 5-3, he tweeted, “Man Utd…LOL.” The tweet was retweeted over 150,000 times and elicited numerous racist and abusive responses. At that time, Kick It Out sent a message to Balotelli:
We extend our support to Mario Balotelli after the appalling racist abuse directed at him. We have since reported this via True Vision the Police’s online reporting facility. During the 2013-14 season, 50% of all complaints submitted to us from across the game related to social media abuse. The issue has been escalating and we urge fellow social media users to assist in bringing this type of abuse to the attention of the authorities.
Before that, in May 2013, Balotelli was targeted with racist abuse during a pre-World Cup game against Roma. He threatened to leave the game if the abuse continued, saying, “If it happens one more time, I’m going to leave the pitch, because it’s so stupid. I always said if it happens in the stadium, I would just behave as if nobody had done anything and that I don’t care, but now I think I’ve changed my mind a bit.”