RUGBY club Benetton have suspended a member of staff after Italy star Cherif Traore blasted “racist” abuse at their Secret Santa event.
Traore received a rotten banana at the Italian team’s Christmas dinner and says what “what hurt most was seeing most of my mates laughing”.
The Guinea-born prop, 28, revealed he was so distressed he was unable to sleep afterwards.
Italy’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation, while Benetton and Italian rugby chiefs “condemned all forms of racism”.
Troare, capped 15 times by the Azzurri, said he normally doesn’t react to “racist jokes” to avoid “making enemies” but has spoken out in the hope it stops other suffering the same experience.
He posted on social media: “Apart from finding it an offensive gesture, what hurt me the most was to see that most of my team-mates who were present were laughing.
“I’ve had to get used to it, having to make a good face on a bad game whenever I hear racist jokes in order to try not to hate the people close to me.
“Yesterday was different, though. Thankfully some comrades, especially foreigners, tried to support me.”
Traore came to Italy with his family aged seven when they immigrated from West Africa.
And he explained why he’s now gone public on abuse he has faced.
He said: “Young guys from different backgrounds attended the Secret Santa.
“I have decided not to remain silent this time to ensure that episodes like this don’t happen again to prevent other people finding themselves in my current situation. And hoping the sender will learn a lesson…”
Fifteen-time domestic champions Benetton and the Italian Rugby Federation issued a statement hitting out at any discrimination.
It read: “Iin the aftermath of the affair involving some of the members of the franchise, wish to reiterate their firm condemnation of all forms of racism and discrimination, which have no place and must not have any place within the Italian rugby movement, sport and civil society.
“Benetton Rugby and the FIR inform that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has launched the necessary investigations to ascertain the facts, as well as the collective and individual responsibilities, to protect the founding values and reputation of the game.
“At the same time, Benetton Rugby has decided to suspend one of its members as a precautionary measure for the entire duration of the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigations.”