At a time when racist incidents in football are rising, a recent tweet by Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva has sparked a heated debate on racism.

On Sunday, the Portuguese sportsman tweeted a now deleted photo comparing his teammate Benjamin Mendy with a black cartoon mascot for Spanish sweet brand Conguitos.

While his manager Pep Guardiola intervened on Tuesday to defend his player, insisting the tweet was "not about the colour of the skin" and saying the images were “quite similar”, the FA were deciding whether he would receive a potential six-match ban for his actions.

Elsewhere, the debate was similarly divided.

Some fans maintained that Silva's tweet had been a harmless joke with a close friend, citing the fact that Mendy had responded with laughing emojis.

And it wasn't the first time Silva had publicly made jokes based on the colour of Mendy's skin.

Others pointed to the fact that the Conguitos mascot has deeply colonial overtones, and said as a role model, Silva should have known better.

As reported by The Times, Youngstown State University professor Diana Palardy, described the original cartoon as:

A small, naked, pot-bellied, spear-bearing African native with enormous lips.

Palardy noted the demeaning nature of the popular international brand's first commercials.

[It featured] tiny warriors marching across the screen, set against the backdrop of a jungle and exotic music, while a large white hand whisks them away, one by one.

When the black leader realises all of his troops have vanished, he shouts out the last name of the first democratically elected Congolese prime minister, drops his spear, runs away, trips over a rock, rolls, and morphs into a Conguito candy, which is then devoured with delight by a white Spanish woman.

Against this backdrop, many on social media criticised the initial tweet and Guardiola's reaction.

However, others felt the discussion was demeaning the debate on more insidious manifestations of racism.

There were, of course, the usual suspects spouting the "reverse racism" defence.

Anti-racism campaigners Kick it Out said:

We are extremely disappointed to see the tweet posted by Bernardo Silva, which has since been deleted.

Racist stereotypes are never acceptable as ‘banter’, and we’re shocked that someone who is a role model to millions has failed to understand the discriminatory nature of his post. 

But Silva doubled down on his tweet.

It didn't go down so well with many.

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