Black players in the England soccer team have been subjected to a storm of online racist abuse after their defeat in the final of Euro 2020, drawing wide condemnation from the squad’s captain, manager, royalty, religious leaders and politicians. Marcus Rashford, 23, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 19, were the targets of the abuse after they missed spot-kicks in a penalty shootout with Italy which settled Sunday`s final after the game finished as a 1-1 draw.
The comments have prompted a police investigation and wide condemnation, although critics accused some ministers of hypocrisy for refusing to support a high-profile anti-racist stance the players had made during the tournament. The Times newspaper reported that British ministers will tell social media companies to immediately hand over details of those who made online racially abusive comments towards the players.
“Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up & take a pen when the stakes were high,” England captain Harry Kane wrote on Twitter. “They deserve support & backing not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night. If you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an @England fan and we don’t want you.”
Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up & take a pen when the stakes were high. They deserve support & backing not the vile racist abuse they've had since last night. If you abuse anyone on social media you're not an @England fan and we don't want you. pic.twitter.com/PgskPAXgxV
— Harry Kane (@HKane) July 12, 2021
England manager Gareth Southgate called the abuse ‘unforgivable’. “I know a lot of that has come from abroad, that people who track those things have been able to explain that, but not all of it,” he told a news conference.
Rashford himself wrote in a social media post late on Monday that he was thankful to his team mates for the support they extended to him and that he was overwhelmed by the messages of support towards him.
“I can take critique of my performance all day long... but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from,” Rashford said in his statement.
The England team have earned praise for their stand against racism, while a number of players have also campaigned on other social causes. The multi-racial make-up of the squad had been hailed as reflecting a more diverse modern Britain.
The team had highlighted the issue of racism by taking the knee before all their matches - a protest made by American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick and followed by the Black Lives Matter movement last year – saying it was a simple show of solidarity against racial discrimination.
However, some fans have booed the gesture, with critics viewing it as a politicization of sport and expression of sympathy with far-left politics. Some ministers have been accused of hypocrisy for refusing to criticise those who booed and using it as part of a wider ‘culture war’, often portrayed as a rift between those wanting to protect Britain`s heritage from a ‘woke’ youth, who see their elders as blocking moves to end racial and social injustice.
“This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. “Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.
Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 12, 2021
While Johnson himself said the team should not be booed, his own spokesman had initially declined to criticise the fans over the issue when asked last month.
(with Reuters inputs)