Liverpool striker player Mario Balotelli was suspended for one game and fined £25,000 (roughly $40,000) over a controversial image the Italian soccer posted on Instagram. The footballer, whose nickname is Super Mario, reposted a picture of the video game character along with some text. “Don’t be racist,” the message read, “be like Mario: He’s an Italian plumber created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican, jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”
My colleague Liel Leibovitz brushed off the post’s seriousness or significance. “It’s dumb,” he wrote, “but it’s not overt racism”—which is something, Leibovitz pointed out, that Balotelli has had to deal with often throughout his professional career. “It’s particularly tedious, then, to have to defend Balotelli against charges of racism,” Leibovitz continued. “And it’s equally absurd to think that the player, adopted at a young age by the Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors, is guilty of even a whiff of anti-Semitism.”
The English Football Association, apparently, disagreed, levying the brief suspension and fine as well as mandating Balotelli take an education course.
“I am sorry that my team-mates and supporters of Liverpool FC have to be penalized for something I did and now come to regret,” Balotelli said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. “It is my intention to comply with the decision of the FA and make sure it never happens again.”
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.