Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport has been accused of fuelling racism and crossing “the line of acceptability” for a front page with the headline “Black Friday”.
The paper on Thursday ran the title alongside pictures of Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku and Roma’s Chris Smalling. The two former Manchester United teammates will face each other on Friday in a match between the two teams for Italy’s top division, the Serie A.
The headling drew sharp criticism from football teams and the anti-racism group Fare which retweeted it under the comment: “The media fuels racism every day. This is today’s edition of Corriere dello Sport.”
Not a single soul:
Corriere dello Sport headline writer: pic.twitter.com/u2xpMLV5IH
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) December 5, 2019
Roma’s English-language Twitter account expressed its disgust at the headline, while Inter tweeted: “Football is passion, culture and brotherhood. We are and will always be against all forms of discrimination.”
Inter rivals AC Milan also said on Twitter it was “totally unacceptable to see such casual ignorance on racism” and they would “not stay silent on this issue”.
However, Corriere dello Sport posted a statement on its website in defence of the article, claiming the writer meant to celebrate the “magnificent wealth of diversity” in football.
“It’s an innocent article, perfectly argued by [journalist] Roberto Perrone, that has been made poisonous by those who have poison inside them,” editor Ivan Zazzaroni wrote.
Romelu Lukaku’s agent Federico Pastorello told Sky Sports News that authorities are not treating racism seriously as there have recently been recent similar episodes in Champions League and in Serie A games.
He added that the problem is part of a wider cultural issue affecting Italian society.
“Honestly being Italian I’m really ashamed to read a title like that,” Pastorello told Sky Sports News.
“[Lukaku]’s very sensitive on that problem. He’s facing it every time with strong power, not more for him but for all the other players who may be weaker than him.”
Italian football has been plagued by racism.
Lukaku himself was a victim earlier this season 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.
Last month, Brescia striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch after suffering racist abuse during a Serie A match against Hellas Verona.
The president of Brescia later said on the sidelines of a Serie A match that 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.
Meanwhile in September, a veteran Italian pundit was dropped from one of the country’s Sunday night round-table programmes after suggesting Lukaku could only be stopped by giving him bananas to eat.
Last week, all 20 Serie A clubs signed an open letter saying Italian football had to do more to fight racism.
Earlier this year, 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.