MILAN, December 5, 2019 – Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport has been banned by two Serie A clubs, AC Milan and AS Roma, “for the rest of the year” after fuelling racism with the offensive headline splashed across its front page on Thursday.
The “Black Friday” headline was emblazoned on the page alongside photos of Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling ahead of Friday night’s match between the two sides at the San Siro. Both players were teammates at English club, Manchester United and are seen as figure heads for this Serie A clash.
Corriere dello Sport may have had “innocent” intentions like it has tried to explain on its website, but that headline has only drawn sharp criticism, and football teams are also reacting.
BAN “In response to the ‘Black Friday’ headline published today by the newspaper, Milan and Roma 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,” the statement on AC Milan’s official website read.
“Both clubs are aware that the actual newspaper article associated with the ‘Black Friday’ headline did portray an anti-racist message and for this reason, we have only banned Corriere dello Sport until January.”
In a social media post, Inter said: “Football is passion, culture and brotherhood. We are and always will be opposed to any form of discrimination.”
SERIOUS PROBLEM Last week, every team in Italy’s top division, Serie A, penned an open letter, promising to do more in tackling its “serious problem with racism”. While admitting that “it’s a problem that we have not done enough to combat over the years”, they clearly added that “no individual should ever be subjected to racist abuse – inside or outside of football – and we can no longer stay silent on this issue or wait for it to magically disappear”.
Earlier this season, Lukaku was the subject of monkey chants from Cagliari fans, and he released a statement the following day saying, “we are going backwards” on dealing with racism. Recently, Brescia striker Mario Balotelli said he experienced racial abuse by opposition Verona fans and almost walked off the pitch. Verona was given a one-match partial stadium closure following racist abuse aimed at Balotelli while Cagliari escaped any serious punishment for the racism aimed at Lukaku.
In response to the headline in Corriere dello Sport, Fare, anti-racism group said in a social media post that “the media fuels racism every day”.
IDOLS The article accompanying the headline hailed Lukaku and Smalling as “the idols of Inter and Roma fans”, adding that their confrontation would be the “battle inside tomorrow’s big game”.
The article also appeared to highlight the league’s racism problem: “They [Lukaku and Smalling] have learned how to respect each other. They have taken strong stances against racism.” But its provoking headline did not go down well with many.
INNOCENT ARTICLE Corriere editor Ivan Zazzaroni published a statement on the paper’s website, defending the writer’s intention. “’Black Friday’, for those who want to understand it and can understand it, was only praising diversity, taking pride in diversity, the magnificent wealth of diversity. If you don’t understand it, it’s because you can’t do that,” he stated.
“It’s an innocent article, perfectly argued by (journalist) Roberto Perrone, that has been made poisonous by those who have poison inside them.”
The statement on the AC Milan website added: “We believe that players, clubs, supporters and the media must be united in the fight against racism in football and we all have a responsibility to be very precise in the words we choose and the messages we deliver.”