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An Open Letter To Leonardo Bonucci

April 6, 2019

Dear Signor Bonucci,

It’s been two days since you played your 250th Serie-A game for Juventus. It was a game in which you scored the 500th goal in the Juventus era Coached by Mister Allegri.

This game should have been fondly remembered for the right reasons. It led to the accomplishment of two beautiful milestones that pushes the club one step closer to its 8th consecutive Scudetto. This was a game in which you reached a great milestone on a personal level and it should have been the moment to appreciate the work you’ve put in since joining the club in 2010. But instead, this game has become a black mark in your illustrious career. It has overshadowed your moment of glory and that of the club, rightfully so.

“It was 50/50.”

When I first came across this, it surprised me. It stunned me. I had to confirm it 4-5 times before coming to realize that you actually said it.

50/50.

Before I go on in depth about this, I’d first like to say that I don’t dislike you. I don’t hate you and as difficult as it may seem to understand, I have never hated you.

I think I have always given you the respect you deserve and I have always been fair with you. It’s because I actually do love you as a player, a lot. You have qualities that I have seen very few defenders possess. So when you left Turin to go to Milan, it hurt me a lot on a personal level because I was attached to you. Not that it matters to you because at the end of the day, every professional needs to do the best for their career, whether it results in success or failure. Even when you were at Milan, I could never wish the worst for you and I always maintained that you are a world-class player.

When you returned to Turin, it was very difficult for me to accept you, not because you left Juventus, not because you celebrated against Juventus (against every fan who supported you from the beginning) but because I was afraid that it could break my heart again. However, as President Andrea Agnelli says, Juventus and the Juventus family always believes in second chances, so I opened myself to embrace you again.

Throughout this entire season, I have gone to a great extent to protect you, to support you. I have given you the credit you deserve and the criticism you merit. More importantly, I have shown you the respect. It’s barely been a week since I said that in my opinion, you are one of the 5 best central defenders Juventus has ever had.

In short: I don’t have any agendas against you and so what’s about to follow is in my best interest for you, and the club.

50/50.

This was what you said when asked about the racist chants by the Cagliari Ultràs against your teammate Moise Kean. I cannot believe you actually said that half the blame goes to your 19-year old compatriot for his celebrations when he was defending your shirt (our shirt); when he was racially targeted throughout the entire game.

I watched the game and it was not easy for us. It had a lot of tension and there were a lot of emotions. Our opponents really tested us but this is normally the case for all the Serie-A games and it is testament to the work done by the entire club to win with such proficiency. Sometimes, players can come off inappropriately when interviewed about certain sensitive topics, at the end of such high intensity games. Initially, I believed that this was the reason behind your statement.

I waited. I waited for your response to clarify and apologize for your statement. Your first post on social media was:

I am happy to have celebrated my 250th Serie-A appearance in the Juventus shirt with a goal.

I could understand. You were visibly tired after such a game. Perhaps you did not fully understand the seriousness of your words and the impact it would have on the entire planet.

By the time you woke up the next morning, you probably expected to read about your sporting contributions to help your team win an important game. But instead you were criticized by the entire football universe, from fans to your fellow professionals; from Juventus greats to your own teammates. Even a famous rapper publicly insulted you. Hence you felt it was right to clarify your statement and you posted this on Instagram story:

Regardless of everything, in any case… NO TO RACISM 💪🏻 💪🏿

What sort of a statement is this, even? “Regardless of everything, in any case”. When I read it, it shows arrogance to understand the sensitiveness of racism and it shows your own stubbornness to feel right in what you said. It was only natural that the backlash you were getting, escalated. Hence, you felt the need to write a post on Instagram clarifying your interview the previous day.

After 24 hours I want to clarify my feelings. Yesterday I was interviewed right at the end of the game, and my words have been clearly misunderstood, probably because I was too hasty in the way I expressed my thoughts. Hours and years wouldn’t be enough to talk about this topic. I firmly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination. The abuses are not acceptable at all and this must not be misunderstood.

When I first came across this post on Instagram, I “liked” it because it’s a natural impulse for me to like everything that Juventus players post and support you to my best. But I read the entire post and “unliked” the post.

I understand your clarifications. You’re human and as humans we are all error prone. No one is flawless. After the game, it is very hard to channel your thoughts calmly. A player or a manager can come off inappropriately even if they don’t intend to. It’s the heat of the moment. That is understandable.

But what I cannot understand is your continued arrogance and stubbornness to clearly specify your admittance to making a mistake. Never once did you apologize in the post that you wrote 24 hours after you made a horrible statement. Never once did you say sorry.

Should it be understood from your post that you’re sorry? Some people may argue but I don’t see you as a person who regrets blaming his 19-year old teammate that was racially targeted throughout an entire game. I don’t see it. This is a big issue for me. It doesn’t come from your heart and this hurts you because people do not believe your clarifications.

Let’s also make one thing clear: You are not a victim here. You were attacked because you initially came across as someone who was an apologist for the racists. I never back abuses but it’s not like your initial statements warranted a bouquet of roses.

Racism is a serious issue, Leo. It is. I don’t think you are a racist but you come off as someone who donesn’t understand the seriousness of it. You probably don’t understand the sensitiveness of this situation. It resonates in the way you have expressed yourself on three different occasions in 24 hours.

Throughout history, black people have been victims. There have been many black people who were killed, tortured, harassed and exploited based on the color of their skin. There is a historic context and we must respect the seriousness of it.

Exposure to different things educates us better. I relate to your situation because I come from a country, which like Italy has problems to fully understand racism. I am an Indian. I was born and brought up in India. I lived in India for 22 years.

Racism is an issue in India, just as it is an issue in Italy and everywhere else. Like Italy, we have not had the ethnic diversity as that of USA, Canada and other countries, where there is more awareness about it. But Italy has more diversity in this regard while compared to India. Hence, I relate to your situation better because we Indians are also prone to come off wrongly even if we don’t intend to. There’s a cultural difference which leads to a difference in perceptions.

From your point of view, you may not think your initial statement was wrong and that you solely have the best interests of Kean at hand. But this perception is different when you consider the aforementioned historic context wherein black people have suffered throughout history.

In football, players within the same league or those arriving from different leagues, are subjected to abuses because of the color of their skin. They are not doing anything different than their teammates except existing with a different skin color. Nothing they do in response to the abuse they receive is a provocation. You cannot provoke ignorance or hate.

We have already overseen three different cases of Cagliari Ultràs racially targeting black players at the Sardegna Arena, for three consecutive seasons. Two of these cases involved your current teammates. Sulley Muntari was a target, Blaise Matuidi was a target and now Kean was targeted.

Leo, your 50/50 statement gives ammunition to those disgraceful people who go to the stadium to racially target players; your fellow professionals, your own teammates. No one should ever stoop down to racism in order to criticize a player’s celebration on the pitch. But your statement justifies the racist acts to a celebration that your own Captain defined as “silent” and “nothing wrong”.

You are validating these people. These are people who lack education and respect. These are people who have the audacity to go to the stadium and do disgraceful things openly, in front of broadcasting cameras, other fans and more importantly in front of their own family with children who go on following the same path.

If these people can do these things so openly, can you imagine what they would do privately? Consider the situation of a hard working black vendor whose work is ruined by such people, or the situation of others who are exploited in a large organization because of their color. Consider and respect.

It is your duty and obligation to set an example, so that those who are impacted by you can learn from you. You are an international player with a large following throughout the entire world. You are one of the top players of your National Team and the Serie-A. You represent a gigantic club that has close to 15 million fans in Italy, over 300 million fans across the world.

These things have serious implications on those who surround you and those follow you. As footballing fans, we are inspired by you footballers and rely on your principles to help us live our challenging lives.

Hence, clarifying your statement alone is not enough. You need to apologize for it and clearly specify that your statement was wrong. You need to confirm yourself as an icon against racism, not an icon for racists. You need to do this for yourself, your image and more importantly, for those who are inspired by you.

I made an effort to write this because I care about you and your image. I don’t want to you to be misrepresented and involuntarily be a symbol for things you don’t stand for.

I look forward to your apology and hope for an equal game to prevail.

Note

1. The views of the author does not necessarily represent the views of this website.

2. The views of the author does not necessarily represent the views of his collaborators.

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