England players targeted with racist abuse after Euro final: Teammates, clubs, officials demand accountability

English soccer is wrestling with the latest rash of online racist abuse directed at some of its most high-profile players after England’s penalty-kick shootout defeat to Italy in the Euro 2021 final.

England’s final three penalty kick takers — Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka — were all subjected to racist abuse on social media in the wake of their unsuccessful spot kick attempts.

Police are investigating the posts on Twitter and Instagram, with both companies (Facebook owns Instagram) stating that they’ve taken action with regards to comments and accounts that were directing abuse at the England players in violation of their policies.

Racist abuse on social media is a recurring issue and all of English professional soccer united in a boycott of social media platforms in May in the hope that it would drive social media companies to do more to combat online hate.

The latest racist attacks have been condemned by police, the English Football Association, England manager Gareth Southgate, clubs, players, politicians, and even Prince William.

A Rashford mural in Manchester was also vandalized in the early hours of Monday morning, although fans are already doing their part to cover up the hate (below). Local police are also investigating the incident. “This is disgraceful behavior and will absolutely not be tolerated,” the Manchester police chief told media.

For the first time since the events that unfolded on Sunday, Rashford shared a personal message on social media that expressed how meaningful it was for him to see the messages that now adorn the mural.

Players, clubs, officials speak out on abuse

Arsenal was one of the clubs that came out in defense of its player, Saka, demanding that social media companies and government officials do more to stop online abuse once and for all.

“Last night we witnessed the leadership and character we’ve always known and loved in Bukayo,” read Arsenal’s club statement. “However, this feeling of pride quickly turned to sorrow at the racist comments our young player was subjected to on his social media platforms after the final whistle. Once again, we are sad to have to say we condemn the racism of a number black players. 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.”

English soccer pros have been among the most vocal activists in the fight for social justice and racial equality, using their platforms to raise awareness, including taking a knee before matches. English players have continued to take the knee in the face of booing from pockets of their own fans in the lead-up to the Euros. Both England and Italy joined together in the gesture prior to kickoff of the Euro 2021 final.

England captain Harry Kane was the latest to criticize the abusers in no uncertain terms: “If you abuse anyone on social media, you’re not an England fan and we don’t want you.”

“For some of them to be abused is unforgivable,” Southgate said at a press conference on Monday. “Some of it has come from abroad, we have been told this, but some of it is from this country.”

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