Italian rugby team Benetton Treviso announced on Thursday that they have suspended a member of their squad after Guinean-born Italy international Cherif Traore received a ‘rotten banana in a wet bag’ as a gift during a Christmas dinner .
In a statement posted on its official website, Benetton, along with the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR), said federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into the matter.
Benetton and the FIR have imposed a suspension on one team member pending this investigation.
In a now-deleted Instagram post from Wednesday, Traore detailed the incident and accused some of his teammates of laughing while opening the gift.
Traoré was born in Guinea but has lived in Italy since he was seven years old. He plays as an accessory for the northern club Treviso and for the Italian national team.
Later the same day, Benetton posted a video on their Twitter account with Traore, who said he had accepted the team’s apology, with the following caption: “How often do you make a mistake and offend a family member? – a lot.
“Well, this time it happened in our family. Now what matters is that we understood the mistake and apologized.
World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body, said on Thursday it was “monitoring the matter closely”.
The United Rugby Championship, the league in which Benetton competes, also released a statement on Thursday revealing that they have asked the team to provide them with a full report into the incident and the action taken.
“Racism and discrimination of any kind is abhorrent, completely unacceptable in society and completely contrary to the values of the sport of rugby and the United Rugby Championship,” the statement read.
Ellis Genge, a black England international rugby player, responded on Twitter to the team’s apology saying there had to be consequences.
“Not well done, absolutely right, ‘gifting’ a ‘teammate’ a rotten banana for Secret Santa isn’t a big deal and a simple apology will suffice,” Genge wrote.
“If there’s no further action on this from Benetton, then everything we’ve done for ‘rugby against racism’ has been a tick box for most,” a- he added.
Maro Itoje, another black England rugby player, wrote on social media: “Sending love and support to Cherif Traoré! No one should receive racial slurs!! It is difficult to understand that this story really happened. This shows us that there is still work to be done!