CNN  — 

Corriere dello Sport has accused critics of “lynching” the newspaper in a staunch defense of its “Black Friday” front page.

The Italian publication sparked a race row this week after dubbing Friday’s Serie A match between Inter Milan and AS Roma “Black Friday”, along with pictures of players Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku.

The cover was slammed on social media with both Smalling and Lukaku expressing their opposition.

“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,” tweeted Smalling.

Lukaku described it as one of the “most dumbest headlines” he’d ever seen.

A number of Italy’s top clubs also criticized the headline with AC Milan and AS Roma banning the paper at its facilities until the end of the year.

READ: ‘Black Friday’: Italian newspaper sparks race row with front page

Corriere dello Sport published a strong defense of its front page.

‘Turned into poison’

However, despite the widespread condemnation, the publication doubled down in its defense of the front cover and led with another rebuttal of its critics on Friday’s front page.

“Racist to who? Lynching of a newspaper that has been fighting for freedom and equality for over a century,” read the latest headline.

“Black Friday, for those who want and can understand it, was and is only the praise of difference, the pride of difference, the magnificent wealth of difference,” continued Ivan Zazzaroni, the newspaper’s editor.

“If you don’t understand it, it’s because you can’t understand it or because you pretend you can’t.

“Black Friday is the innocent title of a newspaper, ours, which for almost a century has been defending with obstinacy and passion, simply passion, the values of sport, of football.

“Yet it has been turned into poison by those who have the poison inside themselves. It is an innocent title.”

READ: FIFA and UEFA ‘may as well have stood in stands’ with racists, says ex-England star

Romelu Lukaku described it as one of the "most dumbest headlines" he'd ever seen.

Racism problem

The race row comes at a time when Italian football has been criticized for the way it has handled racist incidents.

Earlier this season, Lukaku was the subject of monkey chants from Cagliari fans and Brescia striker Mario Balotelli said he had experienced racial abuse by opposition Verona fans.

Both incidents were met with meager penalties – Verona was handed a one-match partial stadium closure and Cagliari escaped any serious punishment.

All of Italy’s top clubs penned an open letter last week, recognizing its problem with racism and admitting not enough had been done to tackle it over the years.