An anti-racism campaign by Serie A featuring monkeys was "too provocative", Lazio president Claudio Lotito said Wednesday, stressing however that the league was not racist.
Monday's launch of the campaign was aimed at promoting "integration, multiculturalism and fraternity" but immediately drew widespread criticism and ridicule.
"The spirit was not to accentuate the racist side, but unfortunately, it was not seen in a positive light, judging from the reaction," Lotito told reporters in Rome.
"The league is certainly not in favour of racism, the problem is that the campaign that was done was too provocative."
Lotito recalled past controversial advertisements by Italian retailer Benetton.
"Remember when Benetton did its first campaign with black people -- it created a scandal," he said. "But in time it was processed, and brought awareness."
Serie A's managing director Luigi De Siervo apologised Tuesday to those offended by the work of artist Simone Fugazzotto, which showed three monkeys in close-up but with slightly different colours over the basic brown.
Italian stadiums are the scene of recurrent racist incidents, including monkey chants aimed at black players.
The controversial art was part of the league's anti-racism programme presented in Milan, which included the signing of a charter by a player representing each of the 20 Serie A clubs.
Lazio's cross-city rivals Roma criticised the campaign on Monday, saying that the monkey imagery was not "the right way" to fight racism.