London: British police opened investigations Monday into the racial abuse of three Black England players. The players missed penalties in England’s shootout loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 Championship final. The Metropolitan Police condemned the ‘unacceptable’ racial abuse of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. They said they will be investigating the ‘offensive and racist’ social media posts published soon after Italy won Sunday’s shootout 3-2 after the match ended 1-1.
The English Football Association (FA) said it was ‘appalled’ by the ‘disgusting behaviour’. It added that social media companies should take action to make their platforms free from this ‘abhorrent’ abuse.
“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible,” the FA said. “We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game. We implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences,” it added.
All three players – Rashford, Sancho and Saka – are part of a young England squad that have been widely praised for its diversity and social conscience. Rashford, for one, has been at the forefront of a campaign against child poverty. He convinced the British government to restore free lunches for thousands of poor children amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A mural of Rashford on the wall of a cafe in south Manchester was also defaced in the wake of Sunday’s match. Greater Manchester Police said they were investigating the ‘racially aggravated damage’, which occured at 2.50am. “This is disgraceful behaviour and will absolutely not be tolerated,” Manchester police chief superintendent Paul Savill said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said ‘those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves’. However, he has faced criticism for emboldening those booing the England team for taking a knee before their matches to protest against racial injustice.
England coach Gareth Southgate described the abuse directed at the players as ‘unforgivable’. “We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together, in people being able to relate to the national team. The national team stand for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue,” Southgate said Monday.
Gary Neville, a former Manchester United player and now a TV commentator, said he wasn’t surprised that the three players who missed their penalties were targetted for racist abuse and called out Johnson.
“The prime minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who are trying to promote equality and defend against racism,” Neville said on ‘Sky News’. “It starts at the very top and so for me I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that I woke up this morning to those headlines,” he added.
Prince William, who is the president of the FA, joined the chorus of condemnation. He said he was ‘sickened’ by the racist abuse aimed at the England players. “It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour,” William wrote on Twitter. “It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable,” he added.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on social media companies to do more to hold offenders to account. “There is absolutely no place for racism or racial abuse in football or anywhere else,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, said Monday it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible. It encouraged people to use the tools it offers to block abuse.
Twitter said the ‘abhorrent racist abuse’ has no place on its platform. It said it has removed more than 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating its rules. “We will continue to take action when we identify any tweets or accounts that violate our policies,” Twitter said.
England’s former star cricketer Kevin Pietersen condemned Monday the racial abuse of three Black players on social media. He wondered if the country should get hosting rights of the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
Pietersen, a former national team captain, got caught in the chaos that broke out after England’s loss to Italy in the penalty shootout of the summit showdown at Wembley.
“The walk I took with Dylan to get our car home last night was scary absolutely HORRENDOUS! This behaviour in 2021?? The abuse of the players who gave us so much joy?? Do we actually deserve the 2030 World Cup?” Pietersen tweeted.
In the shootout, England’s two goals were scored by captain Harry Kane and Harry Maguire. Their next three shots were taken by Rashford, Sancho and Saka – all Black teammates. Sancho and Saka’s shots were blocked by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, while Rashford’s hit the upright.
In another tweet, Pietersen wrote, “The media in UK is probably the most powerful in the world. It should be a responsibility of theirs, to enforce the social media giants into verifying EVERY SINGLE PERSON that has an account. No robots & no fake accounts! ACCOUNTABILITY for all! It’s destroying society!”