Embattled LaLiga president Javier Tebas repeated a racist slur used by fans towards Real Madrid star Vinícius Jr. when discussing the incident at a press conference on Thursday.
Tebas was speaking to the media in the days after Vinícius suffered persistent racist abuse from some Valencia fans throughout a game at the Mestalla Stadium.
“We’re very conscious and very concentrated – not only in the fight against racism – in the fact that Vinícius is being the object of insults. Why? Because he’s a great player,” Tebas told reporters.
“The great players like Cristiano Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi are the ones who received the most insults – homophobic in one case and intellectual disability in the other. Why? Because they’re great players” Tebas continued.
“If a fan gets angry because Vini is very good, instead of saying ‘f**king Black,’ say, as the King of Spain [Juan Carlos I] said to [then Venezuela president Hugo] Chávez in his day : ‘Why don’t you shut up?’”
According to the match official’s report from Valencia’s 1-0 win over Madrid on Sunday, a fan had shouted “monkey, monkey” at Vinícius during the second half.
Video footage of the match from DAZN España also shows that the Real Madrid star was subjected to various other racist insults throughout the game, including the slur repeated by Tebas at Thursday’s press conference.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) ordered a five-game partial stadium ban at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium and a fine of €45,000 (around $48,489) for the incident.
Fans and players from around the world showed their support for Vinícius over the week through social media posts, gestures and banners before games.
After RFEF President Luis Rubiales admitted earlier in the week that Spain has a racism problem, Tebas said he was “worried” about the situation around racist abuse in Spanish football.
“If I wasn’t worried, I’d be crazy, right?” he said. “Of course, I’m worried and I will work, we will work to find a solution to this image problem because football is… Spain is not racist, Spanish football is not racist.
“LaLiga has worked and will continue to work to fight against these conducts – racist insults, homophobic, whichever – within our stadiums. But obviously, it worries me and, obviously, we’ll have to work at it.”
Vinícius has been subjected to racist abuse from the stands on 10 occasions during La Liga matches over the past two seasons, and seven people were arrested on Tuesday in relation to incidents of racist abuse directed at the Madrid star this season.
Spanish police said four young men had been detained for allegedly hanging an effigy of Vinícius off a bridge in Madrid in January, while three others were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the racist insults aimed at the Brazilian during Sunday’s match against Valencia.
Both incidents are being treated as hate crimes.
The Spanish league has been criticized for not adequately addressing racist abuse in stadiums. In a statement released on Tuesday, LaLiga said it is formally calling to be given sanctioning powers to better fight racism in Spanish football.
At present, LaLiga says it cannot punish clubs or fans for incidents of racist abuse and can only pass on any reports of abuse to RFEF committees or regional prosecutors, who deal with them as legal cases before sporting punishments are handed out.
“In terms of sanctions as a sanctioning body – in Spain, we’ve never had, because this is what the National Sporting Law says, including the new National Sporting Law and the Sport Disciplinary Regulation… deducting points doesn’t exist [as a punishment for racist incidents], only when there are improper line-ups.
“Only in those cases, not for racist incidents. [Guidelines for racist incidents] like those which exist for example in the English Premier League, where you can take points away [for racist abuse].
“In Spain, sporting discipline regulated by the State exists, so we can’t do it [currently]. Would it be good if we began to consider changing this so there could be point deductions? I think so.”
During his Q&A session, Tebas was asked if LaLiga employs Black staff members, replying that the organization doesn’t count the number of Black people working for the organization because “if we did count them, then that would be [looked upon as being] bad.”
“But as I travel a lot, in Angola, we have a Black employee with us. As I said, I don’t count them. I’ve seen some Black people in the digital department,” he said.
“As I said, I don’t count them. Yes, yes, there are but we don’t count them one by one. But the question is unusual. Do I know the statistics of how many? I know it by gender. How many Black people have we got? Well, I don’t know, but we have Asians that work for us too. If I did start counting the Black people, then you would call me racist.”