SAO PAULO (AP) — The social media campaign against racism that started after Dani Alves ate a banana in a Barcelona match had already been planned in advance for Neymar, who was waiting for the right moment to do the same thing as Alves did.
A Brazilian advertising agency said Wednesday it had prepared the campaign for Neymar to help condemn racist acts against his client, but it took advantage of Alves' attitude.
Neymar, who was nearby when a banana was thrown onto the pitch during a Brazil friendly against Scotland in London in 2011, had recently faced racist abuse while playing for Barcelona in Spain.
The campaign took off after Neymar posted a picture of himself with a banana to support Alves, leading several football players, celebrities and world politicians to do the same on their social media accounts.
It also ignited a controversy after a famous Brazilian television presenter who is a friend of Neymar started selling T-shirts related to the campaign only a day after the incident happened in Spain. The T-shirts by TV Globo presenter Luciano Huck have the same hashtag posted by Neymar, "#somostodosmacacos," ("we are all monkeys," in English) and sell for about $30 (€22).
Huck also posted a photo of himself with a banana to his nearly 8 million Twitter followers. He had interviewed Neymar a few times on his popular variety show that airs every Saturday afternoon.
Many went to social media to criticize Huck and accuse him of trying to make money from the incident. His press office said the T-shirts were being sold only to promote the anti-racism cause and denied there was any connection to Neymar or the agency that started the campaign.
The advertising agency, Loducca, said Huck is not one of its clients and denied that it was making money directly off the campaign.
"It's not a campaign to sell anything," agency partner Guga Ketzer told Brazilian magazine Veja. "It started after Neymar and his father came to us two weeks ago saying they wanted to send a strong message against racist manifestations. To discredit the movement because there's an agency behind it would be prejudice just as it was to throw that banana."
Alves said it was a spontaneous attitude to pick up the banana and eat it. He said he "wasn't thinking about the repercussions" and was "just trying to use a positive attitude to counter a negative attitude." Ketzer said Alves didn't know about the Neymar campaign.
"If it's planned, good on them, because they planned a way to try and combat racism to show that it doesn't affect us," former England and Liverpool star John Barnes told The Associated Press. Barnes, who is black, faced repeated racial abuse as a player and once was photographed back-heeling away a banana tossed at him.
Spanish police arrested the man who threw the banana at Alves in Sunday's match at Villarreal, which banned the fan from its stadium for life.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
AP Sports Writer John Leicester contributed to this report.