Seven people in Spain were arrested Tuesday, May 23, in relation to racist incidents directed at Vinícius Jr., the Brazilian soccer star who plays for La Liga giants Real Madrid. 

As CNN reports, the arrests cover two separate incidents from this year, both of which are being treated as hate crimes. Three men, aged 18 to 21, were arrested on suspicion of shouting racist insults at Vinícius during Real Madrid’s match against Valencia CF this past Sunday, May 21. Additionally, four people were arrested for allegedly hanging an effigy of Vinícius off a bridge near Real Madrid’s training center in January.

The incident this past weekend in Valencia is far from the first time Vinícius, 22, has been subjected to racism during games (nor is it uncommon for Black and African players to be subjected to such abuse). During the match, fans chanted the word “mono” (“monkey”) at Vinícius, and at one point, the referee briefly stopped the game so Vinícius could point out those hurling the insults. (An anti-racism message was also shown on the big screen at that time, as per protocols in the Spanish league).

After the game, Vinícius wrote on Instagram, “It wasn’t the first time, nor the second, nor the third. Racism is normal in La Liga. The competition thinks it’s normal, the Federation does too and the opponents encourage it. … I’m sorry for the Spaniards who don’t agree, but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists. And unfortunately, for everything that happens each week, I have no defense. I agree. But I am strong and I will go to the end against racists. Even if far from here.” 

In a follow-up post, Vinícius shared a video that contained not only footage from the Valencia game, but other instances of racist abuse from throughout the season. “They are regular incidents spread across several cities in Spain and even in a television program. The proof is there in the video. I now ask: How many of these racists had their names and photos displayed on websites? I’ll answer to make it easy: zero. None to tell a sorry story or make those false public apologies.”


As for the effigy incident, Spanish authorities said three of the men arrested were “active members of a radical fan group of a football club from Madrid.” The effigy was notably hung in the days before Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal clash against cross-town rivals Atlético Madrid; an accompanying banner read, “Madrid hates Real.”

“The investigation carried out by police through evidence gathered, witnesses and open-source digital research, among other things, led to the identification of the four men suspected of the crime,” Spanish authorities said. They added that the fan group the suspects belonged to had previously been identified as “high risk.”