ROME (AFP) – Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling on Thursday slammed a renowned Italian sports daily as “dumb” and “insensitive” after it used “Black Friday” in a front page headline about them meeting for the first time in Serie A.
Former Manchester United teammates Smalling and Lukaku faced off at the San Siro last night, prompting the Rome-based Corriere dello Sport to publish a headline that has attracted widespread condemnation.
“Instead of focussing on a battle between two teams.. Corriere dello Sport comes with the dumbest of headlines I have ever seen in my career,” Lukaku wrote on Twitter.
“You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue.”
Lukaku and Smalling have both taken Serie A by storm since arriving in the summer, with the Belgian bagging 10 goals in 14 appearances for title hopefuls Inter and England international Smalling becoming an instant fan favourite in Rome.
“It is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive,” wrote Smalling on Twitter.
“I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those words have.”
Both Roma and AC Milan announced on Thursday evening that they would be banning the Corriere dello Sport until the end of 2019 over the headline.
“Our players will not carry out any media activities with the newspaper during this period,” the two clubs said in a joint statement.
The article praised the two players for taking “strong positions against racism and are the symbols of the two clubs”, but Roma tweeted “not a single soul” would think the headline a good idea.
“The intention of the newspaper article was actually positive but this headline has totally overshadowed the anti-racist message contained within the story,” Roma’s Chief Strategy Officer Paul Rogers told AFP.