Italy's Serie A league made the confusing decision to combat racism by attempting to repurpose the historically racist connection between monkeys and black people.
Italian soccer has been littered with racist incidents during games; on multiple occasions, monkey noises and chants were directed towards black players. In November, 20 Serie A teams penned an open letter claiming that the league will do their best to "publicly recognize" the issue of racism. This is the apparent product of that effort.
"For an artist, there is nothing more important than trying to change people's perceptions via their work," the campaign's artist, Simone Fugazzotto, according to Football Italia. "With this trio of paintings, I tried to show that we are all complex and fascinating creatures, who can be sad or happy, Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, but at the end of the day, what decides who we are is not the colour of our skin."
Fugazzotto added that he relied on the theory of evolution to get his message across to fans.
"I only paint monkeys as a metaphor for human beings. We turn the concept back on the racists, as we are all monkeys originally," he continued. "So I painted a Western monkey, an Asian monkey, and a black monkey."
Fans feel like this concept doesn't translate when trying to dismantle racism.
Despite the backlash, Serie A general manager Luigi De Siervo doesn't see an issue with the illustrations and he won't recognize requests to remove the paintings.
"Simone's paintings fully reflect the values of fair play and tolerance, so will remain in our headquarters," Siervo said.