Racism and Hate in Cardinale's Milan

AC Milan has long been on the forefront of the battle against racism. They were one of the first teams in Italy to walk off the pitch because of the racial abuse of their players ten years ago. The club has also had their own anti-racism initiatives beyond Serie A, UEFA, or FIFA's initiatives. They were also the first to sign and promote the manifesto against online abuse, "Parole Ostile." This was an extension of their #RespACT campaign, which urges action for equity, diversity, and inclusivity. Launched in 2020, Milan's social media used that hashtag to bring awareness about racism and to speak out when players anywhere from any club received racial abuse. But that was all before Cardinale. Given his behavior, in particular since he abruptly removed the most Milan person from the organization, it was sadly not quite as shocking to learn that some of our fans racially abused Lukaku on Friday. All racism is absolutely horrific and unacceptable. Of course, the FIGC is more concerned with another incident involving Milan that evening, but that is even less shocking. The Club's statement also lacked responsibility, and emphasized a quickly growing trend of racism and hate in Cardinale's Milan.

If you abuse one based on race, you abuse them all.

They say that ignorance is bliss, and certainly, winning our first three matches with such beautiful attacking play has sent fans into a state of pure bliss. But ignorance also breeds hate, and we have seen hate grow drastically amongst Milan fans since Cardinale bought the club, particularly this summer. We knew there would be consequences of removing Maldini from Milan. Most people looked at the sporting and financial consequences, but the consequences of losing his influence are a much bigger loss. 

Losing Maldini means losing Milan's core values.

We saw how important his influence was last year when we faced Tottenham in the Champions League, for example, it was only he who could convince UEFA to start the match late so the players could warm up after the team busses were stuck in traffic. But his influence in restoring the culture of Milan to the club, particularly the pillars of respect, tolerance, and acceptance of all people may actually end up being the thing we miss most.

Friday, when Lukaku was subbed on, a few Milan fans were caught on video yelling racially abusive comments toward him. This is nothing new for Lukaku or Italy, sadly. While many if not all players of color receive abuse in Italy at one time or another, certain players are like lightning rods for racism, and he is unfortunately one of them. While at Inter, when Cagliari fans abused him, his own fans tried to justify the opposing fans' behavior. In fact, in the past, it has been quite the opposite when Milan and Roma play. But to my knowledge, Milan have never been one of the teams whose fans abused him (or anyone, really.) Until now.

Let our players take care of the opposition.

Whether out of fear of an investigation or attempting to do the right thing, or to appease their own players, Milan did make a statement regarding the incident:

"There is no space for discrimination and intolerance at AC Milan, and we are certain that this is shared by our true supporters that follow us regularly.

We will work closely with the authorities to ascertain the facts and identify the individuals responsible for the insults heard at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, and we are ready to apply our code of ethics to punish them accordingly."

This statement might have been okay without the line "and we are certain that this is shared by our true supporters that follow us regularly." This implies a lack of accountability and was truly unnecessary. If you are saying there is no space for racism, that sentence always ends with a period. And previously at Milan, it would have. Although previously at Milan, such statements were not even necessary. Unfortunately, it has always been our own amazing players who have been subjected to abuse by opposition fans. How do you think they felt, knowing their own fans discriminated against another person of color? The harm of racism is not limited by team colors.

Not that the FIGC has opened an investigation into this, as of this writing. But what they have opened an investigation into is an incident involving Milan players. On the bus after the match with Roma, Leão recorded and posted to social media the players singing anti-Juventus chants, for some strange reason. The FIGC are investigating this due to "the possible violations of the pillars of loyalty, probity, and correctness, and identify those responsible." (Which, perhaps not so ironically, in this case, the player who posted this happens to be a player of color.) 

Not the kind of behavior Milan is known for. 

These chants were uncalled for, and extremely out of place. Yes, Milan were fined for several incidents involving various players during the Scudetto celebrations that were unsporting and aimed at Inter or Inter players, who were our nearest rivals for that title and with whom there had been bad blood with all season long. And there were the actions of Bakayoko and Kessie with Acerbi during a Lazio match a while back as well. That  mess started on social media and was also rightfully punished by the FIGC, as well as internally by Leonardo and Maldini. Not a justification at all for those incidents, but they were related to the occasions. Friday's chants were different, because they were not.

The anti-Juve chants are an off-the-pitch example of poor discipline in the team that is already evident this season. Discipline that would have been immediately stopped well before these chants under the previous technical director. Theo, for example, got back-to-back cards in the first two matches, both for dissent, and was seen publicly questioning Pioli during the game on Friday. He is our vice captain. Leão, also meant to be a leader in the squad, posted that video, and there have been other little cracks in discipline that are starting to show as well, however, they don't have anyone there anymore to remind them of what it means to wear the Milan shirt.

Despite a history of yellow cards, Theo has seemed particularly undisciplined lately.

But it is is difficult to blame them. After the way that Maldini was not only abruptly dismissed, but not even properly thanked, then Tonali sold and 16 other players also left this summer, under varying degrees of willingness, it is clear that they are no longer respected. And respect is something that is often not shown when it is not given. It was reported that when Furlani told the players about Maldini and they were upset, his closing appeal was that they all had contracts and he expected them to do what was best for the team. That would have very much been a slap in the face to the way they had been respected before.

The fans have also been disrespected by this management. When we were justifiably shocked and upset by the sudden departure of Maldini, they did not respect us with an appropriate statement, either. Nothing on social media, no proper gratitude for five years of rebuilding this club. Instead, they gave very few comments, but those they gave had strange statements in them that contradicted the evidence we had about results and growth of the Club. This has only continued, as they cleared out 17 players in all, ten of them Scudetto winners, and for practically nothing. Tonali generated about €60 million, but the other 16 all left for a grand total of €5 million in all. They both metaphorically and quite literally placed almost no value on the players we loved, who fought and won for us. Let alone those who helped them.

It's like they're trying to erase all memory of this happening.

This purging of all things Maldini continued with their statements, and the media and fans on social media helped build their narrative that they were going to do things differently better than he did.  Starting with spending over €130 million this summer to bring in ten new players. Not the young, sustainable players we were used to, purchased for low costs and wages and meant to increase in value by two, three or even up to 40 times in a very short time as we saw the past five years. These players were primarily established players, cost more, have higher wages, but will not increase in value as quickly. They were purchased to win now, not for sustainability.

The winning now has not only appeased many in the fan base, it has made them entitled. Not just entitled, but hateful. They turned on Maldini, a club legend whom just months before, they had loved and worshipped, and made him the scapegoat for everything that ever went wrong at Milan. This was not at all discouraged by management, in fact, the hate was fueled by either a lack of comments, or statements about how great they are and how happy we should be with the new players. 

We know you know it happened, you were at the celebration.

Whereas Cardinale was almost completely uninvolved his first year, not even knowing our history in the Champions League, after firing Maldini, he was suddenly very involved, very hands-on. And he has attended all three matches thus far this season, having never attended even two league matches in a row last season. He is more than happy to take credit for any success, even if this management could not have done what they did without the past five years of hard work from everyone at the Club.

The hate from fans has certainly not been limited to Maldini. The hate quickly spread to attacks on fellow fans or others as well. Even though the team has been playing well and fans claim to be loving the new signings, their hate has been growing even faster than their joy.

Juve fans took cues from their leadership, too, until they turned on him, too.

This is something I call the Juve syndrome. After Calciopoli, when Juve were wrongfully relegated for their part in the scandal, and clubs like Milan and Inter were not relegated when they should have been, Juventus fans were downtrodden and largely humbled during their time in Serie B and the years thereafter as their club rebuilt. But it was when they started winning that they felt entitled and became hateful and spiteful and attacked one another and opposition fans. The more they won, the worse their fans got. We saw a similar form of hate and entitlement escalate very quickly with Napoli fans last season, well before they had even won the trophy.

This same thing seems to be happening at Milan as well. Now that we have players with some name recognition because they played in the Premier League or whatever, and we started our season with three straight wins, fans have become entitled and hateful. The racial abuse of Lukaku and the hate toward Maldini may be only the beginning. Hate and racism are not the part of the values or culture that Milan has been known for at all. And people don't understand that racism and other discrimination are not just words, they have real consequences. 

Cardinale was there, rocking his favorite pose, the night all of this happened.

However, this is Cardinale's Milan, and fans do take cues from owners and management. While Maldini and Massara volunteered at a soup kitchen, for example, Cardinale is in the public eye for partying with Jennifer Lopez and making promises of winning to fans thanks to his investments while vacationing in Capri. As we saw with the demise of Juventus under Agnelli, character matters very much, and both players and fans respond to leadership at a club, or a lack thereof, whether it is an owner or a technical director or whomever. 

This Milan honestly lacks much in the way of actual leadership, but the cues we are given from Cardinale, Furlani, and others are permissive when it comes to poor behavior both by example and in what they do or do not say. Now, the only time they speak of equity, diversity, and inclusivity is for selling jerseys. Or when their fans are found completely lacking in it. When they removed the Milan from Milan, they did a thorough job. So don't be surprised if we continue to see even more racism and hate in Cardinale's Milan.

This post inspired by the music of Muse's "Dead Inside"

Racism and Hate in Cardinale's Milan Racism and Hate in Cardinale's Milan Reviewed by Elaine on 6:30 AM Rating: 5
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