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'Black Friday' headline focusing on Lukaku and Smalling defended as 'innocent' by newspaper

Corriere dello Sport defended itself after controversially branding the reunion of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling as "Black Friday".

Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport has defended its "Black Friday" headline ahead of Romelu Lukaku's reunion with former team-mate Chris Smalling as "innocent".

Inter and Roma face each other on Friday in a match that will see two of Serie A's form teams clash.

But "Black Friday", 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, saw the publication focus on the meeting of former Manchester United colleagues Smalling and Lukaku, both of whom are black.

The front-page splash has attracted widespread criticism, with Roma, Inter, Milan and Fiorentina among those to respond.

But Corriere has hit back with a remarkable defence, adamant those criticising the article do so because it is they who are bigoted. The publication claims the headline was designed to hail diversity.

"Digital platforms? I'd rather say rubbish bins," Corriere wrote of social media, where much of the criticism has originated. "Made up by noble grudges and cheap disdain. A good thought a day turns the doctor away.

"Armies of conformist people surf around the web these days just to paint their good souls whiter. Once the daily racist is spotted, there you go, a handful of strikes to the keyboard and the stain fades away. You feel a better man in a better world. White, black and yellow.

"The denial of the difference is the macroscopic typical mistake of the racism hidden within the anti-racism movements. The mental rabble of the Sunday moralist, and even a Thursday is a Sunday.

"'Black Friday', for he who wants to and can understand, is only the praise for difference [diversity], the pride of difference, the wonderful wealth of difference. If you don't get it, it is because you can't or you don't want to.

"[It was] an innocent headline, so perfectly explained by Roberto Perrone [the author of the article], is transformed into poison by those who have poison in themselves."