Brazilian footballer Vini Jr. pays a painful price for speaking up against racist attacks

Vini Jr. during the March 25, 2024 press conference | Image: Screenshot CBF YouTube channel. Fair use.

On the eve of a friendly match between Spain and Brazil, played in Madrid this March 26, Brazilian national footballer Vinicius Junior (Vinícius José Paixão de Oliveira Júnior) sat alone at the table to answer a crowded room of journalists. With the recurrent racist attacks suffered by him for over two years while playing for the Spanish club Real Madrid, all the questions directed to him were all about the same issue.

A little over seven minutes into the press conference, Vini seemed to choke a bit while answering about the attacks. ”I'm sadder every day, I feel less eager to play every time, but I'll keep on fighting,” he said.

A few minutes later, when the topic remained on how the 23-year-old had been standing up against racism, he broke into tears, and the live broadcast was briefly interrupted. When it returned, the journalists in the room applauded him.

Still, at the conference, Vinicius Jnr. said that each time he talked about a case, the racist rants against him would increase.

A cada denúncia, cada vez mais me insultam, porque pensam que eu estou contra a Espanha. Não estou contra a Espanha, estou contra todos os racistas que tem no mundo, seja brasileiro, seja de toda parte. Estou contra todos eles e quero igualdade para todos nós.

At every denunciation, they insult me more and more, because they think I'm against Spain. I'm not against Spain, I'm against all racists in the world, whether they are Brazilians, or from anywhere else. I'm against all of them and I want equality for all of us.

His tears were met with mixed reactions. On social media, some called them ”crocodile tears.” Others mocked that it was a staged scene for the Netflix documentary he is reportedly filming — in February, Valencia prohibited the production team from filming during their match against Real Madrid.

At the Brazilian Sportv channel, journalist Luiz Teixeira, a Black man himself, said he was revolted and called out CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) for leaving Vinicius by himself at the conference. To Teixeira, the player was being used as a sort of smokescreen:

Para mim ficou claro que o Vinicius ali, aquele fundo preto e um monte de gente aplaudindo o choro de um jogador, a dor de um jogador, é a comercialização da dor, do racismo, de todo o sofrimento que ele passou, e não duvido amanhã ele ser chamado de macaco por um dos torcedores no Santiago Bernabéu.

To me it's very clear that Vinicius there, with that black background and a lot of people applauding a player's crying, a player's pain, it's the commercialization of pain, of racism, of the whole suffering he has endured, and I do not doubt that tomorrow a fan will call him a monkey at Santiago Bernabéu [the stadium where the match took place, and home to Real Madrid].

Timeline of cases

A timeline published by sports news outlet Globo Esporte (GE) last year notes that Vini suffered racism while playing in Brazil, but it became more constant after he moved to Spain.

Back in October 2021, La Liga, the Spanish football league, denounced FC Barcelona's fans for making racist slurs against the player during the local classic against Real. The perpetrators were never identified, and the case ended up being archived.

Since then, there have been cases reported involving fans from Mallorca, Valladolid, Betis, and Osasuna. In January 2023, a doll wearing Vini's jersey was hanged by the neck on a bridge by Atlético de Madrid's fans. In May 2023, Vini pointed to Valencia's fans who were calling him ”monkey” during a match; this led to a fight later and his expulsion from the field.

That episode made Real Madrid and figures such as Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva speak up to support the player, and the club was punished.

”The fight continues,” he posted on X (former Twitter) after a match against Valencia in 2024

At one point, during the press conference, a Reuters reporter asked Vini Jr. what was more frustrating to him regarding the situation, recalling that the previous week a fan was filmed outside Atlético de Madrid's stadium calling him ”a chimpanzee.” Vini responded:

Se a gente começar a punir, não que eles vão mudar o pensamento deles, mas eles vão ficar com medo de falar, seja nos estádios, onde tem câmeras. E que eles possam também educar seus filhos, porque muitas vezes aqui tem crianças me xingando, e eu não culpo a criança, porque eles não entendem ainda. Na idade deles, eu também não entendia o racismo.

If we start to punish, these people won't change their thoughts, but they will be afraid of saying it out loud, in stadiums, wherever there are cameras. And they will be able to educate their kids as well, because many times here there are kids cursing me, and I do not blame the kid, they don't understand it yet. At their age, I didn't understand racism either.


Vini also spoke about studying more about the antiracist cause and struggle, and mentioned iconic US boxer and activist Muhammad Ali at one point. He said facing up to racism was exasperating, but he would keep doing it so his five-year-old brother would not have to, and neither would the people coming after him.

Earlier in February, Vini met with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who also faced racism in his sport and became known for the gesture of ”taking the knee.” Last year, Rio de Janeiro approved a law with Vini's name to combat racism in sports events — racism is already a crime in Brazilian legislation.

As many in Spanish media and social media, Paraguayan retired goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert ridiculed Vini's reaction:

Bread and circus. He is the first to insult and attack his rivals. Don't be a fag*; football is for men.

Rio Ferdinand, a former Manchester United and England's national team player, commented on Twitter:

Spanish writer Manuel Jabois analyzed in a radio show:

The Black 22-year-old that they call monkey in every pitch is not a multimillionaire star from the Brazilian national team or Real Madrid. He is a 22-year-old kid hated for being Black, whether he plays football or delivers Amazon packages.

The friendly match between Spain and Brazil ended with a 3-3 tie. The event was publicized as an act against racism, with the phrase ”Only one skin, only one identity” decorating the Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

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