Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has defended a recent tweet posted by Bernardo Silva that was branded “discriminatory” by a prominent anti-racist group.
The Portuguese international posted a picture of teammate Benjamin Mendy, comparing him to the character on packets of sweets sold in Portugal and Spain, Conguitos. Guardiola has since said it would be a “mistake” to punish Silva after the Football Association wrote to Manchester City asking for an explanation.
Shortly after deleting the original post, Silva tweeted “Can't even joke with a friend these days."
Guardiola said: "There are many situations with white people where a cartoon will look similar. The response from Mendy was clear. They are joking all the time.
"Bernardo is one of the most lovely people I've met in my life. He speaks four or five languages - that's the best way to understand how open-minded he is.
"One of his best friends is Mendy. He's like a brother. He took a picture of Benjamin when he was young and related it with this cartoon, quite similar for the image.
"If they (the FA) want to do that (talk to Silva), Bernardo will be open to talk. But first you have to know which person you are talking about.
"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."
An earlier statement from Kick It Out statement added: "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.
"The FA has been notified and we believe that retrospective action should be taken, including mandatory education - which is vital to challenge offensive behaviour such as this."
Earlier this summer the FA brought in new legislation meaning anyone found guilty of racist abuse during a match could be given a six-game ban, although that does not necessarily include or apply to social media.
Regarding discrimination on social media, the FA still recommends match-based sanctions (depending on the individual incident), but the ultimate decision comes from an independent regulatory commission. The commission can choose whether to increase of decrease the six-week recommendation.
Silva and Mendy are good friends and also played together at Monaco before both joining Manchester City in 2017. Silva’s recent tweet is not the first time something like this has happened, however. In one video, where Mendy is wearing a black t-shirt, Silva asks him if he is naked.
With the recent post, Mendy himself didn’t seem to take offence. He replied “1-0 for you will see” (sic), accompanied by clapping hands and smiling face emojis.
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