Sportswear giants Puma and Adidas have both condemned the racist abuse aimed at Vinicius Jr, the soccer player for Spanish giants Real Madrid.
In breaking cover, the two brands for the first time raise the prospect of potential action against or boycotts of the country’s top-tier LaLiga, which has seen repeated racist incidents in stadiums, with a number involving Vinicius Jr.
The Brazilian was the target of continued racist abuse by sections of the crowd during Real’s 1-0 loss away to Valencia on Sunday (May 21).
Puma, which is a main partner and the club’s kit supplier, told Reuters: “At Puma, we do not tolerate racism, we condemn discrimination in any form, and stand in solidarity with Vinicius Junior and the wider football community in condemning events yesterday.”
Adidas, Real Madrid's kit manufacturer is quoted by Reuters as calling the abuse received by Vinicius Jr “unacceptable” and saying that it “strongly rejects all racism and discrimination.”
Although neither Puma nor Adidas have raised the prospect of further action or boycotts themselves, the fact that they have offered statements indicates that they are – in part – conscious of potential risks to their brands.
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Continued incidents of racism at stadiums during matches in LaLiga could see them and other sponsors cut ties with the league and teams to avoid association.
Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis at GlobalData Sport, commented: “Racism in LaLiga has been brought into sharp focus for the top-tier soccer league. While the likes of the league’s president Javier Tebas and Valencia are trying to play down the significance of the racist abuse suffered by Vinicius Jr, suggesting it is not all fans, the condemnation from the rest of soccer has been unequivocal in saying that the Spanish game needs to get its house in order on the matter.
“Racism has been a fairly consistent feature in Spanish soccer over recent years, with Vinicius Jr targeted at numerous other grounds, including Atletico Madrid.
“Puma has come out in support of the player, condemning the racist abuse, and it looks likely that change may only come when commercial deals like this start being affected.
“Sponsors have been able to affect change previously, effectively ending the tenure of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president during its corruption scandal, with the likes of Coca-Cola and Adidas pressuring the governing body to make changes to its governance.
"However, sponsors have also been hesitant to act in the past, with the recent FIFA World Cup in Qatar a prime example, so time will tell whether sponsors are really willing to force LaLiga into significant change.”
Image: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images