Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva has been charged by the FA and could face a ban over a tweet he posted about teammate, Benjamin Mendy.
The tweet was a picture of Mendy as a child, alongside a photo of the cartoon for a chocolate flavoured peanut snack called “Conguitos” with the tagline, “Guess who?”. The tweet was quickly deleted and followed up by a tweet and an Instagram video from Silva, both claiming it had been a joke with his friend.
The FA state the tweet was an “aggravated breach” of their rules for social media behaviour and was “improper/brought the game into disrepute…(and a reference to) race, colour or ethnic origin”. The governing body has also recently introduced a minimum six game ban for any player found guilty of onfield racism, but the sanction does not automatically apply to online offences. Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation has called on the FA to take action against Silva. Their statement read “racist stereotypes are never acceptable as 'banter', and we're shocked that someone who is a role model to millions has failed to understand the discriminatory nature of his post”.
Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, has repeatedly defended his player in recent press conferences. He argued, “If something happens it will be a mistake because Bernardo is an exceptional person. It’s nothing to do with colour of skin or nationality. One of his best friends is Mendy. He’s like a brother”. Guardiola also called on the FA to “focus on other issues”, but insisted Silva “is maybe going to take a lesson and it’s not going to happen again”. Mendy himself came to the defence of his teammate, with whom he has played alongside since 2016, saying he didn’t take offence at the joke. Another Manchester City teammate, Raheem Sterling, who has been a prominent figure recently in speaking out against racism in football over the past year also said, “(he didn’t) feel there was any racism in it” and “it was a situation between two friends”.
Silva had written a personal letter to the FA in which he expressed his regret after the incident and Mendy wrote a statement in support of his teammate. However, another video of Silva joking with Mendy last year - in which he asked “Why are you naked?” when the player was wearing a black t shirt - was also passed on to the FA.
Perhaps it was a joke between two friends. Perhaps there was no racial intent and the matter has been taken out of context. But the problem is that in the fight to rid the game of racism, situations like this are just backward steps against the good work done by organisations like Kick It Out. Hopefully, players will learn that in-jokes need to stay off social media platforms where they are role models and have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against racism.
Silva has until October 21th to respond to the charge.