You may have been caught up in Aston Villa selling Jack Grealish’s rights to Manchester City, or even Lionel Messi and Barcelona trying to guilt-trip everyone into hating UEFA, but yesterday saw Juventus (more specifically Juventus Women) sew up 2021’s award for the most insensitive and stupid tweet. It’s hard to see any other club of global stature, tasked with the same amount of social responsibility, failing as badly as the giants from Turin for what’s left of the year ahead.
For some reason—and the heart of this article is that I’m genuinely interested in what that reason is—the Bianconere staff and social media team felt it was worth taking a picture of Cecilia Salvai mimicking an Asian stereotype and posting that picture online. What’s more, is the club’s staff actually posted emojis mimicking the gesture. We’re repeating ourselves here but once again: It was emotionally-deaf stupidity of epic proportions from a club that exports itself around the globe.
That said, I’m still genuinely interested as to what Salvai and the club were hoping to achieve. It was a question that an Asian Juventus fan even outright tweeted as a response to the club’s apology, with no sense of rhetoric or emotional weight behind the question.
On a purely practical level, in terms of moving to conversation forward to some sort of progressive action, some of us would genuinely be interested to hear the answer.
We sincerely apologise that our tweet, which was not meant to cause controversy or have any racial undertones, may have offended anyone. Juventus has always been against racism and discrimination. #DifferencesMakeTheDifference— Juventus Women (@JuventusFCWomen) August 5, 2021
I’m not Asian or from any kind of Asian background, so what I feel on the matter is a second priority on this topic. But I clearly don’t feel alone on this matter.
I wish accountability became a regular part of the internet discourse, alongside (if not just outright replacing) the anti-racism rhetoric that often has clubs, players, and protagonists afraid to fully account for their actions. Not only does an important question go unanswered but we lose out on communication.
Instead, we’re now left to assume the worst, while scrolling past social media outrage that hammers home the same superficial points on autopilot. I feel it’d be more progressive (as far as verbal debate goes) when we reach the day where Cecilia Salvai and Juventus can explain just exactly what they felt strongly enough about in the first place, that they thought it was worth taking time out of their pre-season to pose for, photograph, and publish what they did.
Was it outright malice? Was it morbid intrigue over a foreign culture they don’t know anything about? Was it cinesmo?
No, really. We’re not asking rhetorically: What was it you were hoping to achieve?
Only then will people in Cecilia Salvai’s position be pushed to fully weigh the trade-off between their personal interests, beliefs, prejudices, and actions and the interests of people most affected by them. And vice-versa.
To me that’s deliberate discourse; a two-way conversation where we’re free to decide how much time we have in our day to see one another’s point of view, or equally choose to just go separate ways.
Instead, what we’re living in right now is an arena where Salvai and Juventus are only pushed to ask themselves: Do our actions get in the way of business? If yes, then what can we say to make sure business goes on as usual? And whether the overly politically correct voices of social media like it or not, their outrage is a part of that rhetorical cycle that the rest of us have to turn the volume down on in the search for genuine, two-way conversation between people of different backgrounds.
Even if the conversation didn’t amount to anything more than Salvai saying “this is the stupid thing I did and these are times I stupidly did this as a kid” with her fans replying “that IS stupid, these are some other stupid things we also did as kids ourselves” that could be a far more disarming, relatable and progressive conversation. It would definitely involve feelings getting hurt (hopefully not deliberately) at times, but it could save a shedload of pain in the long-term when we’re fully accountable for where we stand, and what limitations we may be imposing on ourselves by standing stuck in our insulated beliefs.