Paolo Di Canio, a striker for Italian club Lazio, has been suspended for making a fascist salue to fans after a match. There is a little more grey area here than first meets the eye, in that: 1) In Italy, the fascist solute - which is identical to the "heil Hitler" salute - is associated more with Mussolini than Hitler, and 2) European clubs occasionally adopt symbols that then take on a meaning separate from their traditional one (in Holland, for example, Ajax fans call themselves the "Jews" and wave Israeli flags in support of their team. I'm not saying that's okay, but that's what they do). Lazio fans have adopted the swastika as one of their unofficial symbols, and they claim that they use it independently of its original meaning. Di Canio, who is an admitted admirer of Mussolini, said: "I'm a fascist, not a racist."
If you think the line between fascist and racist seems too fine to parse, I agree with you. If someone is giving fascist salutes, praising Mussolini, and encouraging fans to bring swastikas to matches, it is reasonable for people to assume that person is a racist. That may not be the case: Di Canio is pro-immigration (a position that is much more liberal in Europe than it is in the US) and claims only to admire the populist and unifying characteristics of fascism. But that doesn't negate a more important point: no matter what a symbol means to you, you can't simply ignore what it represents to reasonable people.
This is the same point that I try to make to people who argue that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol. This issue hits home to me because I am a half southerner (I lived in Kentucky and southern Virginia for about 10 years growing up) and get embarrassed when I see southerners flying the Confederate flag. People who do so usually argue that the flag represents southern heritage, not racism ("Heritage, not hate" is a popular bumper sticker in the South).
I've always felt that that argument is bullshit. First, no matter how much revisionist historians may try to obscure this fact, slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. Of course, it's more complex than that, and I'm not saying that most Northerners were crusading against slavery, but the bottom line is: no slavery, no Civil War. Second, the flag in question was resurrected specifically to protest the civil rights movement. Most proponents of the confederate flag don't know this, but the flag that we generally recognize as the "Confederate flag" was actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The actual Confederate flag was different; pollsters concluded that Georgia voters did not recognize it when they rejected incorporating it into their state flag in a 2003 referendum. The red square with the blue "X" only gained prominence due to two post-Civil War events: 1) It became the unofficial flag of the KKK, 2) In 1962, South Carolina began flying it over the state capitol to protest the civil rights movement. Because these are the primary events with which the Confederate flag is associated, I've always considered it a racist symbol, and I think it is entirely reasonable for me to do so.
My point: it is impossible to disassociate the Confederate flag with racism. People who fly it might not be racist, but they are ignorant if they don't realize that reasonable people will conclude that its display constitutes a racist statement. The same goes for Paolo Di Canio's fascist salute: even if he is actually just a really big fan of trains running on time, you can't simply ignore the violence, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and war-mongering that that salute came to represent. If you want to be proud of your heritage, educate someone about Mark Twain or Michelangelo; the racist symbols don't paint you in a good light.