ROME (JTA) – A former Italian soccer player known for his pro-fascist views has been suspended as a TV commentator after displaying a tattoo on air referring to Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
The satellite channel Sky Sports Italia suspended 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” – which was the title chosen by Mussolini, 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. “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.”
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 straight-armed salute after matches.
He told the Italian ANSA news agency that he was a “fascist not a racist.” After a meeting with Holocaust survivors in early 2006 he reiterated his pro-fascist views but said he recognized that Italy’s wartime anti-Semitic persecutions had been unjust and “terrible.”