Russian soccer club Spartak Moscow has been accused of racism after tweeting a message in which it appeared to refer to its own players as “chocolates.”
A video posted on the team’s Twitter account on January 13 showed three black Brazilian players during a training camp in the United Arab Emirates with an accompanying caption that read: “see how the chocolates melt in the sun.”
Russia has pledged to crack down on racism as the country faces increased scrutiny ahead of this year's World Cup.
The antidiscrimination group the FARE Network, which investigates racism issues for European soccer's governing body UEFA, criticized Spartak.
"This shows a shocking level of ignorance. For Russia's biggest club to tolerate and then celebrate racist references of this kind is wrong," FARE Executive Director Piara Powar said in a statement.
"Racism is one of the biggest issues Russia faces in the year they host the World Cup, references of this kind show how some minorities are seen by some people in the country."
Spartak Moscow, Russian league champs last year, later posted a video in which one of the three Brazilian players in the earlier post, Fernando, denied there was any racism at the club.
Spartak has been fined on several occasions for their fans' racist behavior.
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against a Spartak youth player last month after he allegedly racially abused a player from the English club Liverpool.
The World Cup will be held from June 14 to July 15 in 12 venues in 11 Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi.