Russian soccer club facing backlash for racist tweet

Spartak Moscow, the reigning Russian Premier League champion, is facing backlash for a tweet sent out Saturday morning that referred to black players as “chocolates melt[ing] in the sun.”

Spartak is training in the United Arab Emirates during Russia’s winter break. The tweet included video that showed players, including Brazilians Luiz Adriano, Pedro Rocha and Fernando, doing core exercises.

The caption, in Russian, translated to “See how the chocolates melt in the sun,” and was accompanied by smiling emojis.

(Screenshot: FC Spartak Moscow on Twitter)

Spartak had seemingly turned its Twitter account over to defender Georgy Dzhikiya for the day. Dzhikiya was reportedly speaking the same phrase in the video.

The tweet has since been deleted. Later in the day, Spartak tweeted another video of Dzhikiya being interviewed alongside Adriano, Rocha and Fernando. The players had their arms around each other, and Adriano said, “This is my friend, my brother.”

Another video featured Fernando saying to the camera, “At Spartak, there is no racism”:

But the club was condemned by European anti-discrimination groups, which noted Spartak’s – and Russia’s – history of racism.

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“Racism is one of the biggest issues Russia faces in the year they host the World Cup. References like this show how some minorities are seen by some in the country,” Piara Powar, the head of FARE, said in a statement.

“This shows a shocking level of ignorance. For Russia’s biggest club to tolerate and then celebrate racist references of this kind is wrong.”

Powar noted that the club’s fans had recently been punished for Islamophobic chants. One of its youth players was also charged with racially abusing Liverpool teenager Rhian Brewster earlier this season, and its fans have previously been sanctioned for chants in UEFA Youth League games.

Kick It Out, another anti-descrimination organization, issued a statement of its own: “This social media post from the official account of Spartak Moscow only continues to highlight the prejudices towards black people in Russia,” it read. “With the World Cup only a few months away, it is a reminder that Russia – as with the whole of football – has significant work to do to eradicate racism of all forms from the game.”