Chris Smalling has said Corriere dello Sport‘s editors must “take responsibility” for the newspaper’s ‘Black Friday’ headline, which he has described as “wrong and highly insensitive”.
Smalling, who has excelled on loan at Roma from Manchester United this season, was featured on the front page of Thursday’s edition of the Italian publication, alongside his former team-mate Romelu Lukaku.
The headline – referencing the first Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States when retail sales mark the start of the Christmas shopping period – was used apparently in reference to the skin colour of both Smalling and Lukaku ahead of Roma’s clash with Serie A leaders Inter on Friday.
The newspaper’s choice has been widely criticised, with Roma, who along with the rest of Serie A’s clubs recently demanded authorities do more to tackle racism in Italian football, among those to express disappointment.
Dumbest headline ever – Lukaku
Smalling has now responded, with the defender posting on his official Twitter account: “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.
“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.
— Chris Smalling (@ChrisSmalling) December 5, 2019
“A big shout to Roma for the support! Now let the battle commence Rom, daje Roma!”
Lukaku also reacted, labelling the newspaper’s headline as the “dumbest” he has ever known.
He wrote: “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 fuelling the negativity and the racism issue. Instead of talking about the beautiful game that’s going to be played at San Siro between two great clubs.
— R.Lukaku Bolingoli9 (@RomeluLukaku9) December 5, 2019
“Education is key. You guys of Corriere dello Sport should do a better job at that.”
Earlier on Thursday, Corriere dello Sport’s editor described the headline as “innocent”.
The newspaper said the headline reflected “the pride of difference, the wonderful wealth of difference”, adding: “If you don’t get it, it is because you can’t or you don’t want to.”
Lukaku’s agent, Federico Pastorello, hit out at the publication and acknowledged Italian football has issues with racism within the game. Pastorello said it was also a wider cultural problem in Italy.