Leonardo Bonucci’s suggestion that Juventus team-mate Moise Kean was partly to blame for the racist abuse he received from Cagliari fans is laughable, says Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling.
Kean, 19, spread his arms while facing the crowd after scoring Juve’s second goal in Tuesday’s Serie A win.
Bonucci said Kean “could have done it differently” and “the blame is 50-50”.
England international Sterling, 24, said: “All you can do now is laugh.”
Italy defender Bonucci, 31, responded by writing: “Regardless of everything, in any case… NO TO RACISM.”
Racist chanting was directed at several England players during their 5-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Montenegro in Podgorica last month.
Sterling gestured to the crowd by putting his hands to his ears after scoring, and later called on football’s authorities to take “a proper stance” against racist abuse.
Following the game, Bonucci told Sky Sport Italia: “Kean knows that when he scores a goal, he has to focus on celebrating with his team-mates. He knows he could’ve done something differently too.
“There were racist jeers after the goal. Blaise (Matuidi) heard it and was angered. I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have done that and the Curva (fans) should not have reacted that way.
“We are professionals. We have to set the example and not provoke anyone.”
Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri said Kean “shouldn’t have celebrated in that manner” but called on the authorities to act.
Italy and Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini defended Kean’s actions, saying he had watched the incident again after the match and concluded his young team-mate “did nothing”.
“Moise is a legacy of Italian football, a golden boy, who is doing his best and should not have to pretend for what he is not,” Chiellini, 34, said.
Kean posted a picture of his celebration on Instagram after the game with the caption: “The best way to respond to racism.”
Kean’s agent, Mino Raiola, told BBC Sport that anyone at Juventus not willing to fight racism should leave the club.
“Nobody should justify racism in any way or form,” he said. “Racism is equal as ignorance. There is no excuse for it. Federation, clubs and players should draw one line.
“A country like Italy should be leading on this given how many millions of Italians live abroad. You cannot be racist and Italian. You cannot be human and racist.”
‘What happened to Kean is inexcusable’
Bonucci saying Kean had to take a share of the blame was the “worst scenario” for a player who had suffered racist abuse, according to former Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure.
The 35-year-old Ivorian said he would have challenged Bonucci over the comments if he was Kean and that Bonucci should apologise.
“Having your team-mate attacking and saying things like that is unbelievable. It was totally disrespectful,” Toure said.
“When this kind of situation happens people of course look to the black players but I feel Bonucci needs to be a bit cleverer and smarter than that.”
Juventus midfielder Matuidi tweeted a photo of the celebration in support of Kean, while Manchester United and former Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba said: “I support every fight against racism, we’re all equal.”
He added in Italian: “Good Italians wake up, you can’t let a small racist group speak for you.”
Another ex-Juventus player, Patrice Evra, said the abuse was “not acceptable in football or anywhere in the world”.
“Well done to Moise Kean for standing up to them and showing them who is boss,” he tweeted. “The world would be a better place if we all shared more love no matter what.”
Italy striker Mario Balotelli shared a picture of Kean with Matuidi and wrote: “Although we are divided and different in our destiny, nothing else has to divide us. I condemn racism in any form and place for EVER.”
Crystal Palace and Belgium striker Christian Benteke said: “What happened to Moise Kean last night is inexcusable.
“Two incidents recently have highlighted even more that there is still a shocking issue within our beautiful game.
“I have nothing but respect for what Moise and Raheem did and how they handled the matter.”
Italian FA ‘allowing racism to continue’
Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out said while an announcement was made during the game calling for the racist chanting to stop, the process was not implemented properly.
“This is the third year in a row that black players have been racially abused at Cagliari – Blaise Matuidi and Sulley Muntari have faced the same treatment, and yet the Italian FA allows it to continue,” Kick It Out said in a statement.
“Ultimately Uefa, national football associations and referees cannot do the job of protecting players from racial abuse. There can be no complaints if they begin to take the situation into their own hands.”
Cristina Blasetti from the Italian Football Federation, also speaking at the Equal Game conference at Wembley, said: “We are very sorry for what happened last night. We are doing our best to tackle this issue.”
On Tuesday, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin asked referees to be “brave” and stop matches if there was abuse from “loud, aggressive and primitive” people.