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World Cup draw racism probe opened

ESPN staff
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Rodrigo Hilbert and Fernanda Lima pose during the launch of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil official emblem © Getty Images
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FIFA are to be investigated in Brazil for suspicions of racism over the selection of the hosts of the broadcast of Friday's World Cup draw in Bahia.

Sao Paulo state prosecutor Christiano Jorge Santos will investigate whether the decision to overlook Afro-Brazilian soap stars Lazaro Ramos and Camila Pitanga and instead hire TV presenter Rodrigo Hilbert and his model wife Fernanda Lima - who are both white - was motivated by discrimination by either world football's governing body or the event's Brazil-based organisers, TV Globo and GEO Eventos.

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"I opened the investigation due to the suspicion of a crime of racism on the part of FIFA, or by the company they selected to organise the show, GEO Eventos," Santos told Reuters, while The Sun reports him as adding: "Racism is a serious matter in Brazil. We need to find out if a crime was committed. We do not want the image of our people to be whitened or distorted."

Lima and Hilbert were both part of the launch of the tournament's official emblem in Johannesburg three years ago, while Lima was one of the presenters for the preliminary draw the following year.

Ramos and Pitanga, who star together in Side By Side, one of Brazil's most popular television programmes, have not been involved in any official World Cup broadcasts to date.

FIFA has denied the claims, saying in a statement to Reuters: "The selection of Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert was mainly based on the positive experience made during the launch of the official emblem and the preliminary draw.

"FIFA's stance against any form of discrimination and racism which is even enshrined in our various regulations amongst others is well known."

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