A section of fans of fourth-division club Pro Patria chanted racial epithets at Boateng and other black teammates during an exhibition game in Busto Arsizio, Italy.
The New York Times reports the stadium’s public address announcer ordered the fans to stop, but they refused. That’s when Boateng took action.
Midway through the first half, he was dribbling near the Pro Patria penalty area when fans resumed the racist chanting. The 25-year-old playmaker picked up the ball, kicked it into the stands and started walking toward the tunnel in protest.
A few Pro Patria players tried to convince Boateng to play on, but he refused. He removed his jersey and continued walking off the field, as large sections of the crowd applauded him. Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini directed his team to follow Boateng, and the game was abandoned minutes later.
Milan players Urby Emanuelson, Sulley Muntari and M’Baye Niang were also targets of racial abuse, according to AC Milan.
Ambrosini said Boateng and Milan have sent a forceful message to the world.
“It is disappointing for everybody who was at the stadium, but it was necessary to give a strong signal,” the captain said. “Milan will attempt to return to Busto Arsizio, especially for the children and those who had nothing to do with racism. However, it was important to send out a clear signal.”
Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri regrets the latest incident of racial abuse in soccer, but he thinks Boateng and Milan did the right thing in leaving the field.
“These racist episodes have to end,” Allegri said. “Walking off was the correct decision to make after the racist chants.
“We are sorry these events have happened, more so for the other supporters –- the families and children who had come here to spend a pleasant afternoon. We have promised Pro Patria that we will come back for these people here. We are also sorry for the Pro Patria players and the club but we had to give a strong signal against these episodes. I hope it helps set an example from the top leagues down. We had no other option but to walk off, which I hope will have repercussions. I sincerely hope these uncivilized acts do not occur again.”
Racism and bigotry have stained soccer for ages. The issue is receiving increasing amounts of attention, as incidents occur in high-profile settings. Authorities are searching for solutions to the long-standing problem, but players like Boateng aren’t waiting for soccer’s governing bodies to figure it out. They’re leading the way.
See Boateng and his teammates take a stand against racism in the video below.