ADDS REMARKS OF LUKAKU, SMALLING
By Can Erozden
ANKARA (AA) - An Italian sports newspaper drew the ire of Inter Milan and Roma football clubs when it used an offensive headline about black players in Thursday’s edition.
Corriere dello Sport used the phrase "Black Friday" in its headline in reference to Inter's Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku and Roma’s English defender Chris Smalling as the two teams square off Friday in an Italian Serie A match in Milan.
Lukaku and Smalling slammed the paper for using the offensive phrase.
"Instead of focusing on a battle between two teams.. Corriere dello Sport comes with the most dumbest of headlines I have ever seen in my career. You guys keep fueling the negativity and the racism issue," Lukaku said on Twitter. "Education is key. You guys of Corriere dello Sport should do a better job at that," the Belgian star added.
"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 and adding that he hopes the editors, who ran this headline, take responsibility and understand the impact of the words.
The players thanked fans, journalists and clubs for their messages of support following the incident.
Inter's city rivals AC Milan and Roma agreed to sanction the newspaper.
Roma said in a statement the clubs banned the daily until January 2020.
"In response to the ‘BLACK FRIDAY’ headline published today by the newspaper, Roma and Milan have decided to ban Corriere dello Sport from our training facilities for the rest of the year and our players will not carry out any media activities with the newspaper during this period," Roma said, adding that football's main actors such as players, clubs, supporters and media should be united to fight against racism.
Before the sanction was announced, teams around the league denounced the headline and called for a united voice against racism.
"Football is passion, culture and brotherhood. We are and always will be opposed to any form of discrimination. #BUU #BrothersUniversallyUnited #NoToDiscrimination #FCIM," Inter said on Twitter.
"The Corriere dello Sport headline? I don't think it's a good choice of words. We need to be more aware when we talk about issues related to racism - we need to be more considerate," Roma manager Paulo Fonseca said in a pre-match news conference Thursday's.
AC Milan also criticized this headline.
"It is totally unacceptable to see such casual ignorance on racism. We will not stay silent on this issue… #togetheragainstracism," the club tweeted.
"Speechless. #NoToRacism #KickitOut," another Italian club, Fiorentina said on social media.
Lukaku and Smalling were teammates from Manchester United as the duo moved to Italy in 2019 summer.
Lukaku was a Man Utd player between 2017 and 2019, Smalling, a Manchester United veteran, who played for the English club from 2010 to 2019.
- Racism hits Italian football
Italy has suffered from high-profile racism this season with football overshadowed by hate speech against black players.
Lukaku was targeted during an Italian Serie A match in September in which Cagliari fans cheered “monkey” while he was taking a penalty kick.
Brescia's forward Mario Balotelli, who is an Italian national with Ghanaian roots, was racially abused by Hellas Verona fans by making monkey chants, in a match in November.
Balotelli, 29, showed his disgust by kicking the ball into the crowd.
He wanted to leave the pitch but was stopped by teammates and Hellas Verona players.