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‘Unforgivable’ online racist abuse of England players condemned by boss

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were subjected to racist abuse after their penalty misses for England

Gareth Southgate described the racist online abuse directed at some of England’s players after the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy as “unforgivable”.

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were all targeted by abusive posts in the wake of their missed penalties in the shoot-out.

Figures within the sport, from the Government and even the Duke of Cambridge were united in their condemnation for the abuse, and Southgate said: “For some of them to be abused is unforgivable really.

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“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.

“It’s just not what we stand for. We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue.

“We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together.

“We heal together as a team now, and we’re there for them, and I know that 99 per cent of the public will be as well.

“Bukayo in particular has been an absolute star in this tournament, (he has shown) incredible maturity and the way he has played has brought a smile to so many people’s faces. He’s become such a popular member of the group and I know he has got everybody’s support.”

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A photo posted by on

Arsenal released a statement stating their pride in how Saka had represented his club and his country during the tournament, which had turned to sorrow when witnessing the abuse the 19-year-old suffered.

“We are sad to have to say we condemn the racism of a number of black players,” the statement read.

“This cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act to ensure this disgusting abuse to which our players are subjected on a daily basis stops now.

“We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue but sadly there is only so much we can do.

“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”

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Manchester United compiled messages of support for striker Rashford on their website, and a statement introducing the posts said: “It takes tremendous guts to take a penalty under such pressure, when the entire nation is anxiously watching on, so we are proud that Marcus was brave enough to step up.”

The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the Football Association, said he was “sickened” by the abuse.

“It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour,” he wrote on Twitter.

“It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable.”

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League Two club Leyton Orient said on Monday lunchtime that they had issued a three-year banning order to a season-ticket holder related to the abuse of England players, and later announced that, following an internal investigation, the order had been changed to a lifetime ban.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden all condemned the abuse, with Johnson telling a press conference: “To those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players, I say shame on you and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged.”

But former England defender Gary Neville criticised Johnson’s leadership.

He told Sky News: “I’m just reading your breaking news and it says the ‘PM condemns racist abuse of England players’.

“Gareth Southgate and the players a few weeks ago, about five days on the trot, told us they were taking the knee to promote equality and it was against racism.

“The Prime Minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism. It starts at the very top.

“I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that I woke up to those headlines; I expected it the minute that the three players missed.”

Neville’s former England and Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand highlighted that the players who missed would have been idolised by those who abused them had the result gone the other way.

Rio Ferdinand described online abusers as

Rio Ferdinand described online abusers as “cowardly rats” (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“Immediately after the game social media platforms became the toxic and racist safe place for the ignorant and cowardly rats to start spouting their disgusting feelings,” he tweeted.

“These same idiots only days ago would have been celebrating the brilliance of a (Raheem) Sterling or a Saka or a (Kyle) Walker for their efforts in an England shirt. You can bet ya last pound also that they would have sung the Raheem Sterling song almost bursting the veins in their bodies doing so.

“But England lose and that joy and sense of being united immediately evaporates and our black players become the target.”

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Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out and players’ union the Professional Footballers’ Association again called on social media companies and the Government to stamp out the abuse on online platforms.

Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett said: “The social media companies need to do more to stamp out abuse on their platforms, and the Government also need to step up and keep its promise to regulate. The Online Safety Bill could be a game changer and we aim to help make that happen.”

The PFA said in a statement: “Social platforms must permanently ban all offending accounts and proactively compile evidence to give to the police to pursue prosecution. We have collectively called out unsatisfactory policies and action around racist abuse for years – and still, it continues.

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“There has been talk of strong commitments and tough measures from the social networks. Based on the evidence so far, we’re not buying it. Social networks, we need you to do better.”

England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who made three substitute appearances at Euro 2020 but did not feature in the final, labelled the racist abuse “hurtful but not surprising” and insisted he will “never get bored of saying that more needs to be done”.

Former England rugby international Ugo Monye, who attended the final, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The Government don’t do enough, they don’t say enough.

“It’s hard to fix a problem until you acknowledge the problem and at the moment you’ve got a lot of people unfortunately in senior positions, and members of the public, who deny that (racism) is a thing.”

Twitter said it had proactively removed more than 1,000 posts over the past 24 hours which violated its policy and also taken swift action to permanently suspend a number of accounts.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and encouraged people to use the tools it offers to block abuse.

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