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An anti-racism campaign artwork by Italian artist Simone Fugazzotto featuring three side-by-side paintings of apes is presented by Italian soccer league Serie A during a news conference in Milan, Italy, Dec. 16, 2019.Supplied/Reuters

Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo expressed “his sincere apologies” Tuesday after the league installed a painting featuring monkeys at its headquarters for an anti-racism campaign.

“We realized it was inappropriate,” De Siervo said in a statement, more than 24 hours after the painting was used as a backdrop at a news conference that the CEO participated in.

“What cannot be questioned is the strong and constant condemnation by Lega Serie A against all forms of discrimination and racism, and we are committed to eradicate this from our beloved league,” De Siervo added.

De Siervo said that the rest of the league’s anti-racism campaign will be presented by the end of February.

While black players are regularly subjected to monkey chants in games, artist Simone Fugazzotto said his painting featuring three monkeys to represent three different races was meant “to show that we are all the same race.”

Fare, soccer’s leading discrimination monitoring group, called the use of the painting “a sick joke” and “an outrage,” adding it “will be counterproductive and continue the dehumanization of people of African heritage. ... It is difficult to see what Serie A was thinking, who did they consult? It is time for the progressive clubs in the league to make their voice heard.”

AC Milan said it was “surprised by the total lack of consultation” over the painting’s use.

Roma also said it “was very surprised” by the move.

“We understand the league wants to tackle racism but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it,” Roma tweeted.

Racism has been a problem all season with offensive chants aimed at Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira, Kalidou Koulibaly and Mario Balotelli. All of the players targeted – except for Pjanic, who is Bosnian – are black, and many of the incidents have gone unpunished.

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