Italian rugby team Benetton Treviso announced Thursday that they have suspended a member of their team after Guinea-born Italian international Cherif Traore received a “rotten banana in a wet bag” as a gift during a Christmas dinner.
In a statement posted to its official website, Benetton, along with the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR), said that federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the matter.
Benetton and the FIR have imposed a suspension on a member of the team for the duration of that investigation.
In a now deleted Instagram post from Wednesday, Traore detailed the incident and accused some of his teammates of laughing when he opened the gift.
Traore was born in Guinea but has lived in Italy since the age of seven. He plays prop for the northern Treviso club and for the Italian national team.
Later on the same day, Benetton posted a video on its Twitter account with Traore, who said he had accepted an apology from the team, with the caption reading: “How many times does it happen that you make a mistake and offend a family member – a lot.
“Well this time it has happened in our family. Now what matters is that we understood the mistake and have apologized.”
World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body, said on Thursday that they are “monitoring the matter closely.”
The United Rugby Championship, the league in which Benetton competes, also released a statement on Thursday revealing they asked the team to provide them with a full report on the incident and the action taken.
“Racism and discrimination of any kind are abhorrent, completely unacceptable in society and are utterly counter 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 needed to be consequences.
“No well done, absolutely right, ‘gifting’ a ‘team mate’ a rotten banana for secret Santa is not a big deal and a simple apology will suffice,” Genge wrote.
“If there is no further action on this from Benetton then everything we’ve done for ‘rugby against racism’ has been a tick box for most,” he added.
Maro Itoje, another Black England rugby player, wrote on social media: “Sending love and support to Cherif Traore! No one should receive racist abuse!! It’s hard to fathom that this story actually happened. Shows us there’s still work to do!”