ROME (Reuters) – 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.
The match will see former Manchester United team mates Smalling and Lukaku on opposite sides.
The headline, in English, was posted in bold letters on the newspaper’s front page along with a picture of the two black players.
It drew criticism from Fare which retweeted the headline under the comment: “The media fuels racism every day. This is today’s edition of Corriere dello Sport.”
In reply, the newspaper stood by its headline which it described as “innocent.”
“‘Black Friday’, 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.”
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 Serie 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.
Last month, the president of Italian club Brescia said 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.” The club said that the comments were sarcastic and aimed at Balotelli’s critics.
Last week, all 20 Serie A clubs signed an open letter saying Italian football had to do more to fight racism.
Earlier this year, Englishman Smalling, who has joined Roma on loan from Manchester United, backed a campaign for players to boycott social media for 24 hours in a protest against racism.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)