Manchester City star Bernardo Silva has been suspended for one match and fined £50,000 ($64,000) for a “racist” tweet about teammate Benjamin Mendy.
The English Football Association (FA) has also instructed the Portuguese international to complete face-to-face education after he admitted his post was insulting and improper and brought the game into disrepute.
In September, Silva posted a photo believed to be of City teammate Benjamin Mendy as a child, with the caption: “Guess who?” and an image of the mascot for Spanish chocolate brand Conguitos, which is widely viewed as a controversial caricature.
Silva was heavily criticized on social media and later deleted the tweet, before posting another saying: “Can’t even joke with a friend these days … You guys… “
The FA’s report stated Silva’s “exemplary character and disciplinary record” meant he would not be given the minimum six-game ban for discriminatory behavior. However, he will miss City’s next game against Chelsea on September 23.
Though acknowledging the Conguitos mascot is controversial, the FA said its historical context would “have been known only to a limited few” and Silva had grown up in Portugal “where both the brand and the character were familiar and considered inoffensive.”
“The Commission accept that the player did not himself intend the post to be insulting or in any way racist,” the FA report read. “It is clear that the tweet was intended to be no more than a joke between close friends.
“However, this was not a private jocular communication between two friends. The post was on a social media platform exposed to the 600,000 followers of a high-profile and well-respected professional footballer.
“The player accepts that whilst he was ignorant of the adverse historical connotations of the Conguitos character, and that he had not intended the post in any way to be offensive, he acknowledges that others would do so.”
At the time, Mendy replied to the tweet with a series of laughing emojis and clapping hands, with the caption: “1-0 for you will see.”
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola defended his player in the aftermath of the tweet, saying: “Bernardo is one of the most lovely people I have ever met in my life.”
“He speaks four or five languages – that is the best way to understand how open-minded he is – and one of his best friends is Mendy. He is like a brother for him. The image for the two is not about the color of the skin.
“If they want to do that, to ask Bernardo, we’d be open to talk, but first to do that you want to know exactly which person are you talking about. If something happens it would be a mistake because Bernardo is an exceptional person.”
Bernardo has previously referenced Mandy’s skin color in posts on social media. In an earlier video from his Instagram account, he can be heard asking why Mendy was naked when he was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts.