Torino FC tweet supporting #BlackLivesMatter sparks major debate

Torino FC’s number 33 Nicolas Nkoulou kneels after scoring during Saturday’s Serie A fixture against Parma as captain Andrea Belotti looks on. The image, shared on Torino’s official English Twitter account has sparked major backlash as users slammed the team for disregarding the Black Lives Matter hashtag. (Photo: Twitter @TorinoFC1906_En)

Italian Serie A football team Torino FC continues to face mounting backlash for a photo that was initially intended to celebrate the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Turin-based side posted a photo of Cameroonian footballer Nicolas Nkoulou kneeling after he scored a goal against Parma, however, teammate and captain Andrea Belotti, a white Italian man, towered over him.

As well-intentioned as the image was taken, many Twitter users were immediately offended by the gesture, saying it was done in poor taste and called it a slap in the face of the movement.

The tweet hasn’t been removed since its Saturday (June 20) posting, sparking concerns that its tone was intentional amid the heightened global racial climate and sensitivity to race relations, particularly in the United States.

It was a different story on Instagram, as Torino FC’s nearly 275,000 followers were mostly supportive of the high-profile campaign as the team posted photos of Nkoulou kneeling alone as well as him hugging Belotti after scoring.

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📸📸📸 #SFT

A post shared by Torino Football Club (@torinofc1906) on

So it begs the question as to why the top-flight outfit chose to use a more controversial image to draw the ire of Twitter users by accompanying it with the Black Lives Matter hashtag.

“[T]orn between how explicitly racist you have to be to post this on purpose and how implicitly racist you have to be to post this by accident,” one football fan tweeted.

For many years, Italy has struggled to deal with covert and overt reports of racism—even as black football players themselves, representing the very teams, often complain about the horrible verbal abuse by fans.