Uruguayan Language Academy rejects FA sanction against Edinson Cavani as 'poverty of cultural and linguistic knowledge'

Monday, January 4, 2021

On Friday, the Uruguay language academy shared a statement rejecting football player Edinson Cavani's ban of three matches and a £100,000 (US$137,000) fine ruled by The Football Association (FA) in England.

A photo of Edinson Cavani.
Edinson Cavani, from file, 2008.
Image: Salvo da Palermo.

The sanction was made on Thursday based on a comment on Instagram that the Uruguayan striker made to a fan who congratulated him on his football performance.

In particular Cavani wrote "Gracias, ((es))Spanish language: ‍Thank you negrito" and the FA concluded this was "insulting, abusive, improper and brought the game into disrepute" and "an 'aggravated breach' [...] as it included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin."

According to the Uruguay language academy, terms like "negro" (black) and specially its diminutive "negrito" —like terms such as "gordo" (fatso) or "gordito"— are often used in an endearing or friendly way and "[i]n fact, a person so addressed is not necessarily overweight or dark-skinned." ((es))Spanish language: ‍En los hechos, la persona [...] no tiene que tener sobrepeso o tener un color de piel oscuro Further the statement says: "Cavani's use of the voice 'negrito' to address 'pablofer2222', a fan of the football player, has this kind of affectionate tenor: given the context in which it was written, the person to whom it was addressed and the variety of Spanish that was used, the only value that word 'negrito' can have —and in particular because of its diminutive nature— is affective." ((es))Spanlish language: ‍El uso que hizo Cavani de la voz negrito para dirigirse a "pablofer2222", un fan del futbolista, tiene este tipo de tenor cariñoso: dado el contexto en que se escribió, la persona a la que fue dirigido y la variadad de español que se usó, el único valor que puede tener negrito -y en particular por su índole de diminutivo- es el afectivo.

"In summary", the statement from the Uruguay language academy signed by its president, minister of the Electoral Court of Uruguay Wilfredo Penco, concludes by saying, "the English Football Association has committed a serious injustice with a Uruguayan athlete of the highest international level and it has exposed ignorance and error regarding the uses of the language and in particular of Spanish, without taking note of all its complexities and contexts." ((es))Spanish language: ‍la Federacíon Inglesia de Fútbol ha cometido una grave injusticia con un deportisa uruguayo del máximo nivel internacional y ha puesto en evidencia ignorancia y error a propósito de los usos de la lengua y en particular del español, sin tomar nota de todas sus complejidades y sus contextos.

This was not the only Spanish language academy supporting Cavani against the accusation of racism. The Argentina language academy —Argentina, another country of the Río de la Plata Basin, shares with Uruguay the variety of Spanish known as Rioplatense Spanish— on December 22 called on the FA to acquit Cavani and "the presentation of the corresponding excuses for having affected his good name in an unfounded way." ((es))Spanlish language: ‍Se pide la presentación de las correspondientes excusas por haberse afectado su buen nombre de manera infundada

Meanwhile, in Argentina and Uruguay on Friday, the hashtag #graciasnegrito became a trending topic on Twitter, in support of Cavani against the sanction received.