Anti-racism #bananaselfie Campaign Planned, But Still Impactful

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Racism is a reality in football, and African-Brazilian players often endure taunts and slurs both on and off the field. One possible solution: Selfies?

When life gives you bananas—launch an anti-racism campaign.

Although not just a problem in Brazil, there's no denying that Brazilian football is marred by racism and discrimination, and several recent incidents have thrown the issue into stark relief. In one case, after overseeing a state championship match in the lead up to the World Cup, referee Marcio Chagas da Silva walked to stadium parking lot only to find his car vandalized, bananas filed up on the windshield and a banana stuck into the exhaust pipe. Spectators, both Brazilians and Europeans, have been known to jeer at players of African descent, making monkey sounds and lobbing bananas at them on the field.

Then the banana hit the fan. Or, more accurately, one racist fan threw a fateful banana at Brazil-born Barcelona FC player Dani Alvez during a game in Spain on April 27. But rather than be shaken, Alvez defiantly reached down and ate the banana, sparking what seemed like a spontaneous global anti-racism campaign. Other players, politicians, and fans around the world started uploading pictures of themselves eating bananas using a variety of hashtags (#WeAreAllMonkeys, #bananaselfie, #SayNoToRacism).

It was later revealed that Alvez had actually planned the stunt along with a fellow Brazilian teammate and help from São Paulo ad firm Loducca and Brazilian comms trade pub Meio & Mensagem. Together they decided to take the next banana that came flying out of the stands and hijack it in the name of good. (Although some people appreciated the campaign's sentiment regardless, others were a little peeved at learning that Alvez's reaction wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. But as one commenter pointed out on a news story about the campaign, “This Rosa Parks-esque. That was pre-planned, too. Is it any less powerful to know that?”)

As the official body supervising the World Cup, FIFA has been acutely conscious of how Brazil is being perceived around the world, and racism doesn't' jibe with the “We Are One” tone it's been trying to project. FIFA is also running a complementary anti-racism campaign, which asks fans to combat bigotry by uploading selfies of themselves holding up banners emblazoned with “#SayNoToRacism.” Fans are encouraged to share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by July 4, after which a random selection will be displayed before the World Cup quarterfinals.

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