Inter Milan, Roma slam paper for offensive 'Black Friday' headline featuring Romelu Lukaku, Chris Smalling

Romelu Lukaku of Inter Milan has once again been subject to the racism of Italian soccer. (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Romelu Lukaku of Inter Milan has once again been subject to the racism of Italian soccer. (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport is under fire for a recent front page headline that demonstrates the deep and continuing racism in Italian soccer.

Offensive headline

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In advance of the match between Inter Milan and Roma on Friday, the daily Corriere dello Sport published a preview on its front page. Two black player, Romelu Lukaku of Inter Milan and Chris Smalling of Roma (also former United teammates), were featured, along with the headline “Black Friday.” While this sounds like an article in the Onion, it’s not a parody: it’s completely real.

Via SkySports, here’s the translation of the blurb above the headline:

"Lukaku and Smalling, former team-mates at United - and today idols at Inter and Roma - go head to head tomorrow: the Scudetto and Champions League football are up for grabs."

Just like that above-headline blurb, the article that goes with the headline is apparently innocent and carries a message of anti-discrimination. However, it’s completely overshadowed by the headline that refers to Lukaku’s and Smalling’s skin color.

Smalling, both clubs condemn the paper

Inter Milan condemned the headline on Twitter.

Roma called out the paper’s decision to publish the headline in a tweet.

On Thursday, Smalling posted his response to the headline on Twitter.

“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.

“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.

“A big shout out to AS Roma for the support!

“Now let the battle commence Rom, daje Roma!”

Lukaku has yet to personally respond, but his agent, Federico Pastorello, gave SkySports a passionate statement.

"Being Italian I'm really ashamed to read a title like that but I really don't want to talk about a single episode. At the end of the day the racist problem is a big problem. Unfortunately we are living in 1920. It's really a culture problem.

"Being an agent we are trying to protect our clients from this huge problem because it's not only a newspaper but it's a problem you can breathe in the stadium, in social media, on the street.

"I think it's a problem that is a culture problem. What I would like and wish for the future is institutions could take it more serious. There were some episodes in Champions League recently, also in Serie A games and the institution did not take so seriously the problem."

There have been numerous racist incidents in Serie A this year, including at least one that involved Lukaku directly. All 20 Serie A teams recently got together to sign a letter urging fans to eradicate the racism that plagues Italian soccer.

Editor defends the headline

Despite the outcry about the headline (and the continuing criticism of Italian soccer racism), Corriere dello Sport editor Ivan Zazzaroni defended the headline, and insisted that people criticizing it for being racist are purposely misunderstanding the paper’s intention.

Via SkySports:

"'Black Friday', for those who want to understand it and can understand it, was only praising diversity, taking pride in diversity, the magnificent wealth of diversity. If you don't understand it, it's because you can't do that.

"It's an innocent article, perfectly argued by [journalist] Roberto Perrone, that has been made poisonous by those who have poison inside them."

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