Victoria HernandezUSA TODAY
Vinícius Jr. was once again the target of racism at Real Madrid's match against Valencia on Sunday. He was met with racist taunts before getting off the team bus and the crowd at Mestalla directed chants of "mono" — Spanish for "monkey" — at him in the 1-0 loss.
The Brazilian national team star, 22, posted on Instagram after the match to express his frustration with the racism he experienced, calling Spain a "country of racists."
He has been the target of several incidents since joining the La Liga club in 2018. Real Madrid is a team with a lot of eyes on it as it has been home to superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and won the Champions League a record 14 times.
On Monday, Vini Jr. posted a video montage on Instagram of many of the incidents he has experienced and decried those who have deemed them singular events.
"These are not isolated cases," he said in Portuguese. "They are continuous episodes spread across several cities in Spain. ... This is not football. This is inhuman."
The recent incident drew statements from around the soccer world as the sport seeks to become a safe space for all.
La Liga's response to Vini Jr.'s accusations of racism
La Liga president Javier Tebas Medrano addressed Vini Jr's comments, saying that the league has taken steps to eliminate racism. He exchanged words with the forward and said that, despite Vini Jr.'s pleas for reform, he missed two scheduled meetings to discuss race relations.
"Neither Spain nor @LaLiga is racist," Medrano said on Monday, "it is unfair to say this. ... We cannot allow the reputation of a competition which is above all a symbol of unity between communities, where over 200 black players from 42 clubs are welcomed with respect and love from fans every week, to be tarnished. Cases of racism are an extremely rare occurrence (nine reports) which we are committed to eliminating altogether."
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The La Liga corporate Twitter account also posted a statement in Spanish and English on Monday expressing its support for Vini Jr. and saying the organization remains committed to stamping out racism.
"Intolerance and racism have no place in our football," the statement said along with a video explaining the increased communication and legal action the league has taken. "LaLiga condemns and always acts against any offensive or racist mindset, xenophobia and violence, on or off the field of play. LaLiga supports and will back @vinijr and any player who comes under attack, as it has always done. LaLiga and the clubs will continue to work hard to eradicate any such behaviour."
Coach Carlo Ancelotti's response to Vini Jr. being the target of racism
In his postgame news conference, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti stood by Vini Jr. and said he even thought about taking him out of the match because of the hostile environment.
"I've never thought about taking a player off due to racism," he said. "It's never happened to me. Not like that. It's unacceptable. There is a problem in the Spanish league, it's not Vini Jr.Vini Jr. is the victim."
He said the officials should have stopped the match altogether and their handling of the situation, even giving Vini Jr. a red card, was unacceptable.
Despite local journalists suggesting the fans were saying "tonto," meaning "silly" or "fool" instead of "mono," and others' efforts to minimize the hurt of the incident, Ancelotti insisted that the entire atmosphere was tense.
“I've never seen a whole stadium making racist insults. I've never seen it happen before," he said. "All the young players have to improve, but we have to take into account that when a whole stadium insults you, young players are not able to stay calm. His reaction is normal. The club, myself and his teammates support him all the way."
FIFA's response to Vini Jr. being the target of racism
In response to the latest incident, FIFA president Gianni Infantino posted a video on Instagram from a news conference at FIFA Congress in March where he expressed his solidarity with Vini Jr. He also discussed the practical steps that the organization has been taking to eliminate racism, including using a social media filter to block out negative comments during the men's World Cup and laying out guidelines for stopping a match when incidents of racism occur.
"I find it totally unacceptable that I can post this video of what I said at the FIFA Congress in March 2023 - two months ago! - about what should happen on the football field and this message is even more relevant today than when I said it," he said in the caption. "This is crazy! Now, I want to make it clear that there is no place for racism or any form of discrimination - in football and in society. Stop talking, start acting."
History of racist acts against Vini Jr.
Vini Jr. has been on the receiving end of several racist attacks throughout Spain in the past year alone. According to CNN, La Liga has reported 12 incidents of racism since January 2020 to local authorities. Eight of those were acts where Viní Jr. was the target.
During a match against Real Valladolid in December, fans called him the Spanish equivalent of a racial slur and the crowd grunted like a monkey. The club suspended 12 season ticket holders for the racist taunts and said the acts of abuse were "isolated incidents."
Ahead of a January match against Atlético Madrid, fans hung an effigy of Vini Jr. from a bridge with a banner in Spanish that said "Madrid hates Real." Police investigated the incident as a possible hate crime.
Against Mallorca in February, a television broadcast picked up audio of a fan calling Vini Jr. "a (expletive) monkey" and the crowd made grunt noises. The fan identified as making the slur was fined and given a year ban.
In the March edition of El Clásico, the rivalry game against Barcelona, Vini Jr. was again the subject of racist taunts and even death threats as the crowd chanted "Die, Vinícius."
Neymar, Mbappé, Lukaku and Lewis Hamilton show support to Vini Jr.
Racism is not just a problem in Spain.
Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku has experienced racism several times throughout his career. Most recently, he was the targets of racist chants from Juventus fans and he received a red card when he responded.
Lukaku was among those who showed support to Vini Jr. He posted "TMJ irmão" with a Black fist emoji in a comment on the Brazilian star's Instagram post as a sign of solidarity with his "brother."
Fellow soccer stars Neymar — who plays on the Brazilian national team with Vini Jr. — and Kylian Mbappé —who resigned with Paris Saint-Germain last year instead of joining Real Madrid — also showed support by reposting Vini Jr.'s photo and statement on their Instagram stories.
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"With you," Neymar said in Portuguese.
"You're not alone," Mbappé said. "We are with you & we support you."
Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton, who is the only Black driver in the sport and has been vocal about his own experiences with racism, also took a moment to support Vini Jr.
"Standing with you," he said in an Instagram story with a Black fist bump emoji.
What is Vini Jr.'s contract situation
Real Madrid announced a trade to acquire the rights to 16-year-old Vini Jr. from Brazlian club Flamengo in 2017. He officially joined the team when he turned 18 in July 2018.
His contract with Los Blancos is set to expire in the summer of 2024. The club has attempted to sign him to a contract extension, but he has yet to agree.