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Spanish court orders prison time for soccer fans over racist abuse toward Real Madrid star Vinícius Jr.

The Brazilian vowed to keep using his platform to fight racism. (Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — A court in Valencia, Spain, has ordered eight month prison sentences for three men who made racist remarks and gestures toward Real Madrid star Vinícius Jr. at a La Liga match against Valencia CF at the Mestalla Stadium in May 2023.

The convicted men will also face two-year stadium bans for all Spanish soccer matches and have been ordered to pay court costs associated with the case.

“This is the first conviction of its kind to be handed down in Spain, following a case brought before the courts by LaLiga, which was joined by the RFEF (Royal Spanish Football Federation), Real Madrid and, in recent weeks, the victim himself, Vinícius Jr.,” La Liga said in a statement.

In a post on social media, Brazilian superstar Vinícius Jr. said: “Many asked me to ignore it, many others said that my fight was in vain and that I should just ‘play football.’ But as I’ve always said I’m not a victim of racism. I am a tormentor of racists. This first criminal conviction in the history of Spain is not for me. It’s for all Black people.

“May other racists be afraid, ashamed and hide in the shadows. Otherwise, I’ll be here to get you. Thank you to La Liga and Real Madrid for helping with this historic conviction.”

The original sentences of 12-month prison terms and three-year stadium bans were reduced because the men accepted criminal responsibility for their actions and expressed regret, including writing a letter of apology to Vinícius, Real Madrid and La Liga.

“The three defendants acknowledged their criminal liability and have released an apology letter addressed to our player Vinícius Jr., to Real Madrid C.F. and to everyone else who felt offended and degraded by their behavior,” Real Madrid said in a statement.

“As well as showing their remorse, the three defendants asked in their letter to fans that all forms of racism and intolerance be eradicated in competitions.”

Lawyers representing the defendants asked that the prison sentences be suspended, and prosecutors did not object to the request. Suspended sentences are common in Spain for prison terms less than two years for first-time convictions on non-violent crimes. The judge in the case will rule on that request at a later date.

“This ruling is great news regarding the fight against racism in Spain, as it redresses the wrong suffered by Vinícius Jr. and sends a clear message to those people who go to a football stadium to hurl abuse,” La Liga President Javier Tebas said in a statement.

“La Liga will identify them, report them and there will be criminal consequences for them.”

Global soccer’s governing body FIFA also praised the news.

“I am pleased to see the firm action and sentencing taken by the Spanish authorities in relation to the racist abuse directed at Vinícius Jr in a Spanish La Liga match in May 2023. This is a positive step,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.

Infantino continued: “We can no longer accept what is happening in stadiums and on the pitch. Our message to people anywhere in the world who still behave in a racist way when they are dealing with football is clear: we don’t want you.

“These people have to be excluded, they are not part of our community and not part of football.”

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