Soccer:Tommie Smith tells Balotelli to show love when abused
But athlete says players have right to walk out on racism10 September, 15:57
Balotelli, who has Ghanaian roots, has been the target of a series of incidents of abuse, including monkey chants, in recent years as Italian football struggles to win its long battle with racism in the stands.
"Balotelli is probably the best in the world," said Smith, whose Black Power salute, with silver medallist John Carlos, on the podium after he won gold in the 200 metres at the 1968 Olympics was a powerful moment for the US Civil Rights Movement.
"He should keep doing what he does and give more love. "He should give back love and show his strength to the people who boo him, not out of ignorance, but out of jealousy," he added during a visit to Rome. Smith, however, said black players had the right to walk off when they face racist abuse from the stands, as Balotelli's former Milan teammate, Kevin-Prince Boateng, did during a friendly at a fourth-tier side in January. "It's a human right," the former sprinter said, "a sacrifice for every athlete who, evidently, feels the need (to make this protest)". Smith, the first man to run the 200m under 20 seconds, stressed that racism was not confined to Italy or soccer.
"It's not something to attribute to Italy or to sport," he said. "The tendency for people to think colour makes a person is only due to ignorance. "But blood is red for everyone. We have to raise the level of awareness to remove ignorance and hate".