Soccer Stars’ Anti-Racism Statement Was Actually Not That Spontaneous

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FC Barcelona’s Neymar, from Brazil, right, and Daniel Alves, from Brazil, arrive for a religious ceremony at Barcelona Cathedral for late former FC Barcelona’s coach Tito Vilanova in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, April 28, 2014.
Image: Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

A viral campaign stars sparked against racism this week wasn’t as spontaneous as it looked.

Instead, it was carefully orchestrated — and even cooler than it initially appeared.

Brazil and FC Barcelona star Dani Alves drew worldwide acclaim on Sunday when he took a bite out of a banana that a fan threw on the field during an away match against Spanish team Villarreal. Racist taunts, including bananas and other references to monkeys, are an all-too-common way some European soccer fans harass opposing players, so Alves’ banana bite was seen as a cheeky and powerful response.

Soon after, Alves’ Brazil and Barcelona teammate Neymar Jr., posted this photo of himself and his young son with bananas, alongside the hashtags and . The hashtag has since been tweeted more than 114,000 times according to Topsy, and a host of global soccer stars and other celebrities have posted similar photos.

But, contrary to what many assumed, the whole movement wasn’t just a viral sensation that came out of nowhere and then snowballed into what it became. Neymar and Alves, both of whom have suffered racist taunts in the past, actually planned the stunt weeks earlier and were just waiting for the right moment to unleash it, according to reports out of Brazil.

To be clear, Alves’ eating the banana was not planned and the fan who threw the fruit has been banned from Villarreal home matches. But Neymar had been prepared to do the same and what came next — the viral “we are all monkeys” campaign that seemed so spontaneous — had been in the works for some time. But Alves’ spontaneous gesture was the catalyst.

“We were already talking about it, and when Dani ate the banana we thought it would make sense to release,” Guga Ketzer of Loducca, the marketing agency that worked with Neymar, told the Brazilian news service UOL. “Their timing was perfect.”

In a world of Samsung selfie stunts where it seems everything is for sale, some on Twitter have denigrated the campaign once hailed as spontaneous for its pre-planned and PR-affiliated roots.

Those people are wrong, however.

Seeing soccer stars rally around an anti-racism campaign weeks before the World Cup is very cool. But seeing them do it spurred by a conscious, thought-out decision from one of the world’s biggest soccer names and Brazil’s most famous player in Neymar?

That’s even better.

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