Three players from Argentina’s national rugby team were suspended after antisemitic and other hateful messages from a decade ago were discovered on Twitter and spread on social media.
Two days later, however, following pressure from members of the national team and other Argentine rugby clubs, the Argentina Rugby Union reinstated the players, who were allowed to play in the squad’s next match on Saturday.
The messages, also against Black people and immigrants from neighbouring countries, were made in 2011-12 by Pablo Matera, the team’s captain, as well as Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, and discovered last week.
“What a mess could be in Villa Crespo if Hitler were alive,” Socino wrote, referring to the Jewish-backed soccer team Atlanta from the Jewish neighbourhood of Villa Crespo. A hashtag used a slang expression that refers to the idea of killing Jews to make soap.
In another tweet, Socino mocked circumcision and made reference to the stereotype of Jews being cheap.
Matera spoke of “running over blacks” with his car and disparaged Bolivians and Paraguayans.
The Argentine Jewish political umbrella, DAIA, responded on Twitter.
“The hatred and racism with which he refers to different groups reveals the contempt for equality and human diversity from who today is one of the representatives of Argentina,” the group wrote.
The National Institute against Discrimination also condemned the tweets.
In its condemnation, the only Jewish rugby club in Argentina, Sociedad Hebraica Argentina, said it wasn’t a problem of the sport.
“The problem is in our society, which is increasingly violent and with a lack of values,” the club’s president, Jonathan Lemcovich, said in an interview with by C5N TV. “Education is the key.”
The Argentina Rugby Union opened a disciplinary proceeding, saying the players’ suspension would last “until their disciplinary situation is defined,” before the pushback. Matera also was stripped of the captaincy.
“The Argentina Rugby Union condemns any instance of hate speech and considers it unacceptable that anyone expressing those views would represent our country,” its statement said after the tweets came under public scrutiny.
On Friday, following a meeting of the union and DAIA, the union’s website said the Jewish group offered its pedagogical tools and agreed to tackle “a series of trainings in order to raise awareness and reflecting on the problem of discrimination, and to value of cultural diversity.”
The controversy erupted just two weeks after the national team’s historic victory over the world power All Blacks of New Zealand, 21-15, at the Tri Nations Tournament in Sydney. The win, led by Matera, marked the first time Argentina had ever beaten the New Zealanders.
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