Rugby player Ivan Nemer has been suspended by his club, Benetton, until June 30 after giving Black teammate Cherif Traore a “rotten banana” as a Christmas present. The gift was part of a secret Santa gift exchange at a team dinner on December 20th.
“Racism has never had and will never have any role in my life, as it should never have in the life of each of us,” Nemer said in a statement. “I regret deeply what happened, the stupidity of my gesture, the upset it caused to a friend, the fact that I caused damage to my team, to my teammates, to the country I represent and the game I love.”
Ivan Nemer suspended until the end of the season for giving Cherif Traore a rotten banana as a Secret Santa gift.
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) January 27, 2023
Nemer will also have to attend training and awareness courses through the FIR Migrants Project and his future involvement with the Italian national team will depend on completing the program to the Italian Rugby Federation’s satisfaction.
Traore, a native of Guinea who migrated to Italy at the age of 7, posted about the incident on his Instagram page. He was justifiably upset by the incident and that his other teammates thought it was funny.
Many people think of racism toward Black people as something uniquely American. This of course is wrong. Europeans were the originators of the Transatlantic slave trade. Their inhumane treatment of Blacks goes back centuries.
Look at how Black people from other countries colonized by England, France, Italy, et al., are treated when they migrate to those colonizing European nations. All of this is prevalent outside of sports, so why would sports be immune?
“I come from a multicultural country like Argentina, where cultures have been mixing for over a century and I have always shared the dressing room and the field with teammates and friends that come from all over the world,” Nemer added. “What happened doesn’t represent me, but at the same time it should make me reflect on what still has to be done to change our culture, overcoming the most vulgar stereotypes.
“I accept the suspension and the path of reintegration with calmness but above all I’m confident that in the upcoming months and years I can contribute with my experience to help young rugby players be more sensitive to these matters that should be faced and understood to make not only our sport better, but the world in which we live.”
📰Noticias Vespertinas#Rugby El jugador de los Pumas, Ivan Nemer, fue suspendido hasta el 30 de junio de este año por la Federación Italiana de Rugby al regalarle una banana para Navidad a su compañero del Benetton, Cherif Traoré.#Italia #Pumas #IvanNemer #Noticias #Deportes pic.twitter.com/sjJLFHTY71
— Noticias Belen (@NoticiasBelen) January 28, 2023
This is the problem with racism and racist behaviors. It’s so ingrained in the culture that people supposedly don’t even know they’re being racist. It’s such an accepted part of life to compare Black people to lower primates, therefore they must like bananas. Isn’t that funny?
Nemer gives all the signs of a racist that doesn’t know he is one. He grew up around many cultures, always shared dressing rooms with people from all over the world. That sounds a lot like “I can’t be racist because I have Black friends.”
Author, professor, Macarthur “Genius” Fellow, and director of Boston University Center for Antiracist Research Ibram X. Kendi says the following of racism:
“The very heartbeat of racism is denial. When people say they’re not racist, they’re sharing the words that white supremacists use. Jim Crow segregationists said they weren’t racist. Lynchers argued they weren’t racist; the problem was the people they lynched. Slave owners said the same thing.
“But to be antiracist is to say ‘that chokehold was racist and that policy that has impoverished that community was racist. When I supported it, I was being racist, but I’m going to change it and be different.'”
Before Nemer “can contribute” and “help young rugby players be more sensitive,” he needs to come to terms and accept that what he did was in fact racist instead of deny.