Italian newspaper, Corriere dello Sport has been caught up in a race storm after their choice of headline for Thursday’s front cover, which has been severely criticised for previewing a Serie A game between AS Roma and Inter Milan.
The “Black Friday” headline between images of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling by the Italian sports newspaper did not sit down well with many football people who criticised its racial connotations and undertones.
The newspaper’s decision to use such an inflammatory headline – at a time when racist abuse in Italian football is dominating the front and back pages – has infuriated readers and supporters.
“Black Friday”, is a term used to describe the first Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States when retail sales mark the start of the Christmas shopping period.
Inter striker Lukaku and Roma defender Smalling have been leading stars for their respective teams this season, but the headline is the latest in a series of incidents to have blighted Italian football this season.
The paper was trying to highlight the success of two black players who left Manchester United in the summer to move to Italy but the way they did it was not palatable to many soccer loving people.
The incident comes amid the backdrop of Italy’s continued struggles with racism in football stadiums, one which Lukaku , who is of Congolese descent, was subjected to racist abuse (jeered with monkey chants) during a game by Cagliari fans in September.
Smalling reacted conservatively to the headline, writing:
“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.
Troy Townsend, head of development for equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, said errors in judgement help to normalise discrimination in Italy, a country that has been dogged by incidents of racism this season.
Mario Balotelli has also been targeted and he reacted furiously away at Hellas Verona when he heard abuse aimed at him, almost threatening to walk off the pitch.
Townsend said: “We’re not shocked, are we? We’ve seen a number of incidents in Italy this season alone. If we talk about Lukaku himself and the abuse he received at Cagliari, Mario Balotelli again – what he had to do through anger, through frustration, in kicking the ball into the crowd and attempting to walk off a football pitch. Then he had his own president [Massimo Cellino] talk about him in the way he did, saying he was [‘black and is working on lightening up”.
“This is symptomatic of the issues and the problems that still exist in Italy. While we thought it was an issue for the federation, who allow racism in their stadiums and allow the very identity of black people to be dehumanised, questioned and devalued, we now realise again – like we have in the UK – that the press have a massive part to play in this as well”.
“By choosing two black players and using that headline ‘Black Friday’… their [Corriere dello Sport’s] statement, you’re not kidding anybody here. Ultimately, that is a racist act that’s been put out publicly that many people will glorify on and chuckle with. That’s my massive issue – you’re influencing the masses with whatever you put out, front page or back page.”
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By Gerald Dandah