Fans have been sentenced to prison in Spain for racist harassment against Vinícius Júnior

In what La Liga said on Monday, it was the first court ruling of its kind. A complaint lodged directly by Spain’s top football league resulted in jail sentences for three fans accused of racially harassing Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior during a match last year.

A court in Valencia, where the incident took place in May 2023, sentenced the fans to eight months in prison after they made monkey-like gestures and noises aimed at Vinícius, a black Brazilian. In addition, fans will have to pay legal fees and will be banned from La Liga matches and matches involving the Spanish national team for two years.

Vinícius, 23, responded to the news on Monday by warning “other racists” to “be afraid, ashamed and hide in the shadows.” Otherwise, he wrote in a social media post, he would be “here to collect.”

“Many asked me to ignore it,” the striker wrote in Portuguese (via Reuters), “others said my fight was in vain and that I should just ‘play football’.

“But as I have always said: I am not a victim of racism. I am the tormentor of racists,” he continued. “This first criminal conviction in Spanish history is not for me. It is for all black people.”

Shortly after the incident took place, Vinícius said that Spain was “known as a country of racists” in his native Brazil. The Valencia-Real Madrid match was temporarily halted after Vinícius drew attention to the bickering, and his team subsequently filed a hate crime complaint with Spanish authorities.

Real Madrid said on Monday that the three fans, whom the team described as “young”, wrote a letter of apology to Vinicius, his team and anyone who felt “belittled and insulted by their behavior”. In addition, they reportedly asked other fans to “eliminate all traces of racism and intolerance” during future matches.

La Liga said the fans were being punished for violating a statute in the country’s criminal code regarding “crimes against moral integrity,” which carries a prison sentence of six months to two years. According to the league, the case in question also involved an aggravating factor of racial discrimination.

“Today’s ruling, which is final, finds as proven that the three defendants insulted Vinícius with shouts, gestures and chants referring to the color of his skin,” a Spanish court said. “These shouts and gestures of a racist nature, which included repeating the sounds and imitating the movements of monkeys, caused the footballer feelings of frustration, shame and humiliation, thereby undermining his intrinsic dignity .”

“This verdict is great news for the fight against racism in Spain,” La Liga president Javier Tebas said in a statement, “as it repairs the damage done by Vinícius Jr. has suffered and sends a clear message to the people who go to a football stadium. to insult that La Liga will track them down, report them and there will be criminal consequences for them.

The racist row came several months after an effigy of Vinícius appeared in Madrid shortly before his team played a match against crosstown rivals Atlético Madrid. When the incident took place in Valencia, La Liga said it had previously filed nine complaints on his behalf detailing the discriminatory treatment. The episode galvanized fellow players and many fans, who showed their support for Vinícius, but he said in March that things had “got worse” for him since he started speaking out about racism because “people aren’t punished.”

“They feel like they can keep saying things about the color of my skin,” he said in March, “to try to influence the way I play. … I just want to play, and I want to be able to go to stadiums without anyone bothering me because of the color of my skin.”

On Monday, following the fans’ condemnation, Vinícius took to social media to express his gratitude to La Liga and Real Madrid for “their help in this historic condemnation.”

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