Corriere dello Sport complains of 'lynching' in front-page defence of 'Black Friday' headline

Roma and Milan banned Corriere dello Sport after Thursday's "Black Friday" headline, but the newspaper's editor said: "I don't have to justify myself."

Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku both took to social media to criticise Corriere dello Sport's controversial headline.

Corriere dello Sport claimed to be victim of a "lynching" over its controversial "Black Friday" headline as editor Ivan Zazzaroni suggested some clubs had expressed support.

The Italian sports publication sparked outrage when it used the term on Thursday's front page to accompany images of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling. The former Manchester United team-mates are set to square off in a Serie A fixture between Inter and Roma on Friday.

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Inter striker Lukaku called it the "dumbest" headline he had ever seen and Smalling labelled it "highly insensitive". But after hitting out at social media and criticism and declaring its "innocent" intentions, Corriere refused to backtrack with its next edition.

Friday's headline read: "Racist to whom? Lynching of a newspaper that has been defending freedom and equality for a century".

The front page included a collage of past headlines condemning racism and an editorial from Zazzaroni that insisted "Black Friday" was meant to be a celebration of diversity.

Roma and Inter's city rivals Milan responded by banning the newspaper from speaking to its players and attending training sessions for the remainder of 2019.

RELATED| Roma criticises Italian newspaper for 'Black Friday' headline

In an appearance on Telelombardia, Zazzaroni said: "The other clubs have expressed solidarity. I don't have to justify myself. In the newspaper we did many articles on the fight against racism.

"The headline has been explained and clarified. It was a pun on two champions of anti-racism.

"Lukaku's agent [Federico Pastorello] even said that there was an association with other [newspapers] with the aim of debasing both players.

"Let's say that the exchange between me and Pastorello wasn't very uplifting."

Racism controversies have plagued Italian football this season. Lukaku and Brescia's Mario Balotelli were separately subjected to taunts from supporters during matches in September and November.

Serie A clubs recently signed an open letter vowing to address the issue of racism within the Italian game, with football authorities criticised for not doing enough to punish examples or racial discrimination at matches.

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