Italian sports daily under fire over 'Black Friday' headline

A leading Italian sports daily is facing criticism for a headline reading “” and featuring two black soccer players on the cover. on Thursday ran photos of Roma defender and Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku ahead Friday's match between the teams in Milan on Friday.

Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport has been condemned by anti-racism group Fare for using the headline "Black Friday" along with a picture of players Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku to preview Friday's match between Inter Milan and AS Roma.

Smalling and Lukaku, former Manchester United team mates, will be on opposite sides in the Serie A game.

The headline, in English, was posted in bold letters on the newspaper's front page along with a picture of the two black players.

Fare retweeted the headline under the comment: "The media fuels racism every day. This is today's edition of ."

In reply, the newspaper stood by its headline which it described as "innocent".

"'', for those who want and can understand it, was and is only the praise of difference, the pride of difference, the magnificent richness of difference," it said in a message posted on its website.

"An innocent title... is transformed into poison by those who have the poison inside."

Roma and AC Milan condemned the paper and took the decision to ban it from their training facilities for the rest of the year.

"Both clubs are aware that the actual newspaper article associated with the 'Black Friday' headline did portray an anti-racist message and for this reason, we have only banned Corriere dello Sport until January," Roma said in a joint statement.

Lukaku said the paper had written "the most dumbest of headlines I have ever seen in my career".

"You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue. Instead of talking about the beautiful game that's going to be played at San Siro between two great clubs," the Belgian said on Twitter.

Smalling also criticised the headline.

"Whilst I would have liked to spend the day focusing on the big game tomorrow, it is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive," Smalling said on Twitter https://twitter.com/ChrisSmalling/status/1202636854249578497?s=20.

"I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those words can have."

Lukaku's agent Federico Pastorello said he was "ashamed" as an Italian to read that headline.

"Unfortunately, we are living in 1920. It's really a culture problem," Pastorello told Sky Sports.

MONKEY CHANTS
Italian football has been plagued by racism and Lukaku himself was a victim when the Belgium forward was insulted with monkey chants when he went to take a penalty for Inter Milan during a match at Cagliari.

A veteran Italian pundit was dropped from one of the country's Sunday night round table programmes in September after suggesting Lukaku could only be stopped by giving him bananas to eat.

The president of Italian club Brescia said last month on the sidelines of a Serie A meeting that striker Mario Balotelli's problem was that he was "black", and he was "trying to get whiter".

All 20 Serie A clubs signed an open letter last week saying Italian football had to do more to fight racism.

Englishman Smalling, who joined Roma on loan from Manchester United, backed a campaign this year for players to boycott social media for 24 hours in a protest against racism.


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