Burr Michael Holden and Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Black England players were subjected to a series of racist crimes online after their defeat in the Euro 2020 final, prompting widespread condemnation from head coach Gareth Southgate, as well as politicians and the British royal family.
Marcus Rashford, 23, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 19, were targets for “disgusting” hypothetical offenses after they failed to pay the penalty shootout against Italy, which decided the final match on Sunday with a 1-1 draw after extension.
The comments led to a police investigation and widespread condemnation, although critics accused some ministers of hypocrisy for refusing to support the anti-racist stance taken by the players during the tournament.
“For some of them, the crime is unforgivable,” Southgate told a news conference. “Part of it came from abroad, we were told, but part of it came from this country.”
The England national team has been praised for its stand against racism, while many players have also campaigned for other social causes. The team’s multi-ethnic composition was hailed as reflecting a more diverse modern United Kingdom.
England highlighted the issue of racism throughout the tournament, kneeling before every game – in protest by footballer Colin Kaepernick and followed by the Black Lives Matter movement last year – saying it was merely an expression of solidarity against racial discrimination.
However, some fans booed the gesture, which critics see as an unwanted politicization of the sport and an expression of sympathy for left-wing politics.
Some ministers are accused of hypocrisy for refusing to criticize those who booed at the start of the tournament and now condemn racist crimes.
“This team from England deserves to be commended as champions and not racially abused on social media,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter. Those responsible for these horrific abuses should be ashamed of themselves.”
While Johnson himself has said the team should not be booed, his spokesperson initially declined to criticize the public on the issue when questioned last month.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also said she did not support the players who kneeled because it was a “gesture policy” and that the fans’ choice was to boo the players. This Monday, she joined those who have absolved racial abuse.
Prince William, the head of the Football Association, said he was “disgusted”.
“It is completely unacceptable for players to put up with this outrageous behaviour,” Queen Elizabeth’s grandson wrote on Twitter. This must stop now, and everyone involved must be held accountable.”
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Simon Evans, and Manassi Pathak)
Copyright © Thomson Reuters.