Huge Backlash After Italian Sports Presenter’s Sexist Comments

Commentators Suspended For Sexist Comments

Inappropriate remarks heard on-air. Credit: wellphoto/

Two Italian journalists have been suspended following sexist and racist comments made during the World Aquatics Championships in Japan.

On Monday, July 17, RAI, Italy’s state broadcaster, announced that it had suspended Lorenzo Leonarduzzi and Massimiliano Mazzucchi, for their commentary during the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, writes BNN.

Specifically, the journalists were featured on the internet channel RaiPlay 2  while covering the female synchronized diving competition. Diving fans heard their controversial comments about the way the divers looked. The inappropriate comments were heavily criticised by viewers and politicians alike.

Comments That Prompted The Complaints

Among some of the things listeners took exception to were references to the size of the competitors. Reportedly one said: ‘The Dutch are big.’ Which was followed by a crude joke: ‘Anyway they’re all the same size in bed.’

In addition to this, they also mocked the way the Chinese speak by mimicking their accent, perpetuating xenophobic attitudes.

Following the offensive comments, the broadcaster received numerous complaints from viewers. Some politicians also voiced their disappointment and called for action to be taken against the journalists.

RAI’s chief executive, Roberto Sergio, launched a disciplinary procedure with his head of sport, which resulted in both commentators being recalled to Italy. Sergio commented that ‘bar jokes’ had no place on public service television.

Accused Journalist Defends Himself

In response Leonarduzzi defended himself: ‘Now I am forced to leave Japan, but as soon as I arrive in Italy I am going to my lawyers and I intend to react to safeguard my dignity. Not against the company, which understands well that it is a stolen off-air, but against those who accuse me.’

‘I distance myself in the strongest and most absolute way from what is being contested, because it was not a telecast. The microphone was left open to know when we could go back on the air and the headset was resting on the table, but I had had indications that the news was on the air and we were not scheduled to go live on Rai Play 2.’

‘We started chatting with our colleague when we thought we were not on the air. There was no body shaming intent on our part. When I say that the Dutch athlete has a big physique, I don’t mean to denigrate her. I say this because the Chinese are short and slender and this can affect the dive.’

This latest incidence comes amid a similar occurrence in Italy only last month. Sky Italia suspended two Formula 1 commentators for making sexist comments about a young woman who appeared after the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.