Newspaper apologizes for cartoon depicting soccer star Mario Balotelli as King Kong

Mario Balotelli of Italy smiles ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between England and Italy at The Olympic Stadium on June 24, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Mario Balotelli of Italy smiles ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between England and Italy at The Olympic Stadium on June 24, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has apologized for publishing a cartoon depicting black Italian striker Mario Balotelli as King Kong.

Balotelli, a forward for Manchester City, was portrayed in the cartoon on the top of Big Ben, swatting away soccer balls after Italy beat England on Sunday at Euro 2012, according to the Telegraph.

See the Gazzetta dello Sport cartoon here

Balotelli, 21, was not immediately available to comment but Reuters reported that his agent Mino Raiola was incensed by the cartoon as the star player has endured racist chants at home and abroad.

"We can honestly say it was not among the best products of our talented cartoonist," the newspaper said in a statement. "At this time, a measure of prudence and good taste are necessary because everything, absolutely everything, can be misinterpreted. The newspaper is for those who read it and hence, if certain readers found the cartoon offensive, we apologize."

Balotelli, who was born in Italy and is of Ghanaian descent, was the target of racial abuse recently.

On Tuesday, UEFA charged Spanish and Russian football associations following reports that monkey noises were directed by Spanish fans at Balotelli.

In the first proven case of racist abuse at Euro 2012, UEFA fined the Croatia football association $100,000 for a range of charges including insults directed at Balotelli.

In its statement, Gazzetta dello Sport denied the cartoon had any racist intent.

"This newspaper has fought any form of racism in every stadium and has condemned the boos directed at Balotelli as an unacceptable form of incivility,"' the statement said.

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