Italian soccer clubs condemn newspaper over 'Black Friday' front page

The Inter Milan and A.S. Roma soccer clubs are expressing outrage over an Italian newspaper's front page that featured the headline "Black Friday" accompanied by a photo of two black players, Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling. 

Corriere dello Sport's front page previewed the match-up between A.S. Roma and Inter Milan and how it would set up a clash between Lukaku and Smalling, former teammates when they played for the English soccer club Manchester United. The "Black Friday" headline quickly ignited accusations of racism and ignorance.  

"Football is passion, culture and brotherhood. We are and always will be opposed to any form of discrimination," Inter Milan, the club Lukaku plays for, said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday. 

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AS Roma also spoke out about the newspaper's front page, suggesting in a tweet on its English language account that "absolutely nobody" would think to write the headline used by Corriere dello Sport. Smalling is a defender for AS Roma. 

The Fare network, an organization that works to counter discrimination in European soccer, also said in a statement that "the media fuels racism every day."

“Would they ever take two white Italian players and say it’s ‘White Tuesday?'" Fare’s executive director, Piara Powar, asked in a statement. "They wouldn’t and this is the issue. Why would you pick out two players who are black and highlight their race as a way to build up to the match? It crosses the line of acceptability.”

Other Italian clubs, including AC Milan and Fiorentina, decried the newspaper's representation of the athletes. AC Milan said in a statement that "it is totally unacceptable to see such casual ignorance on racism."

In wake of the backlash, Corriere editor Ivan Zazzaroni said in a post on the newspaper's website that the "Black Friday" headline was intended to showcase the "praise of difference, the pride of difference, the magnificent wealth of difference."

"Armies of right-minded people flock to the web these days to turn their beautiful souls white. Having identified the racist on duty, go, two strokes on the keyboard and off the stain, you feel yourself to be a better man in a better world," Zazzaroni wrote, according to an English translation. "White, black, yellow. Denying the difference is the typical macroscopic stumbling block of anti-racism racism."

"'Black Friday,' for those who want and can understand it, was and is only the praise of difference, the pride of difference, the magnificent wealth of difference. If you don't understand, it's because you can't do it or because you do it," he continued. 

The article associated with the controversial headline appeared to attempt to cover discrimination problems plaguing Italian soccer, The Guardian reported. Among other things, the article described Lukaku and Smalling as “two giants of color."

Problems related to racism and the harassment some players are subjected to has persisted for years in Italian soccer. Fans aimed monkey chants at Lukaku earlier this year during a game between Inter and Cagliari. 

Lukaku called on soccer authorities and social media companies to do more to combat racism following the incident. 

Every club that is a part of the Italian Serie A signed an open letter last week acknowledging that racism in the league was a serious problem. 

"We have to publicly recognise that we have a serious problem with racism," the letter read. "It's a problem that we have not done enough to combat over the years.