A former Italian soccer player known for his pro-fascist views has been suspended as a TV commentator after displaying a tattoo on the air referring to Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, JTA reported Thursday.
The satellite channel Sky Sports Italia suspended the player turned commentator, Paolo Di Canio, after he appeared on camera while reporting on a match Sunday wearing a short-sleeved shirt that allowed the tattoo on his arm reading “DUX” to be seen.
“Dux,” the Latin term for leader, is the origin of the Italian term “Il Duce” -- the title chosen by Mussolini, the dictator who ruled Italy for two decades and was an ally of Adolf Hitler.
The incident touched off a storm of protest from viewers and on social media.
“We made a mistake,” said Sky Italia Sports and Sky Media executive vice president Jacques Raynaud, according to JTA.
“We apologize to all those whose sensibilities were hurt. After a long talk with Di Canio, despite his professionalism and football expertise, together we decided to suspend his collaboration,” he added.
Di Canio, who has sported the tattoo for well over a decade, has long been known for his pro-fascist views. In 2005 he was fined twice and suspended for giving the fascist straight-armed salute after matches.
He told the Italian ANSA news agency that he was a “fascist, not a racist.”
Just last week Italian football federation President Carlo Tavecchio "strongly condemned" a group of traveling Italy fans who gave fascist salutes before a win against Israel in Haifa.
The incident occurred during the national anthems of the 2018 World Cup qualifier and was reported on a website of Italian Jews.
In late August, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flags were seen during a soccer match in France between Israeli Beitar Jerusalem and Saint-Étienne.
A week earlier, supporters of Glasgow’s Celtic Football Club waved PLO flags during their Champions League qualifier against Israel’s Hapoel Be'er Sheva, prompting the Union of European Football (UEFA) to launch disciplinary proceedings against Celtic.
Last year, UEFA considered punitive actions against the Belgian Charleroi soccer team, after Charleroi fans taunted Beitar Jerusalem fans during a game with Nazi salutes and anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli chants.