After initially claiming that teammate Moise Kean was "50-50" to blame for racist chants reportedly directed at him, Leonardo Bonucci has backtracked. Kean was abused by Cagliari fans after scoring on Tuesday night.
Following widespread criticism from fellow players including Raheem Sterling and Memphis Depay and condemnation from across the football world, Italy and Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci has claimed his words about teammate Moise Kean's reaction to racist chants were "misunderstood".
Kean scored a fourth goal in as many games to secure a 2-0 win over Cagliari on Tuesday that took Juventus another step closer to an eighth consecutive Serie A title. But the 19-year-old's celebrations were marred when by a section of home fans, who had reportedly been targeting him and France international Blaise Matuidi with monkey noises and abuse all game, ramped up the intensity.
The Italian forward celebrated with his hands outstretched in front of the Cagliari fans after scoring, but defender Bonucci initially claimed that Kean should not have provoked the home supporters and said his teammate must share the blame.
"There were racist jeers after the goal, Blaise heard it and was angered. I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn't have done that and the Curva (Cagliari fans) should not have reacted that way. We are professionals, we have to set the example and not provoke anyone," Bonucci said after the match.
But after Sterling, who has become a prominent anti-racism voice, mocked the Italian defender by tweeting the remark: "Leonardo Bonucci ... All you can do now is laugh", Bonucci responded on Instagram.
Bonucci belatedly condemns racism
"I was interviewed right at the end of the game, and my words have been clearly misunderstood, probably because I was too hasty in the way I expressed my thoughts," he wrote.
"Hours and years wouldn't be enough to talk about this topic. I firmly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination. The abuses are not acceptable at all and this must not be misunderstood."
Bonucci, who scored the first goal, pushed Kean back towards the center circle while fans insulted and threw water bottles at the striker as Cagliari players intervened to calm them down.
Kean then posted a a picture of himself celebrating with the caption: "The best way to respond to racism #notoracism" on Instagram.
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri is another to have drawn censure for suggesting that Kean should not have celebrated in the manner he did, but also took aim at the home fans.
"He is a young man and he has to learn, but certain things from the crowd also shouldn't be heard," Allegri said. "In life and at the stadium you have imbeciles and normal people. These people should be identified with cameras and ousted from stadiums for life. The problem is that no one wants to do this."
Italian football has long had issues with racism in the stands, with Azzuri star Mario Balotelli and Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari among the black players to have suffered.
The latest episode of abuse came on the day that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said he was "ashamed" by the recent outbreak of racist abuse, including at England's match in Montenegro last month, and vowed to ask referees to stop matches in the future if racist chanting breaks out.
Club president thinks mistake is Kean's
But Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini also opted to blame Kean for stirring up tensions."
"If (Juve forward Federico) Bernardeschi had done what Kean did, the reaction would have been the same," said Giulini.
"Nobody had heard anything up to that point. Kean made a mistake, he's 19, that's understandable," he added, saying he "mostly heard whistles."
"There is a drift towards self-righteousness that I don't like, this club has always been exemplary and has always denounced racist behaviour."
Cagliari could be handed a fine or forced to close part of their stadium if the allegations are proved true.