Three Black British soccer players faced such vehement online abuse after a recent match that authorities are now delving deeper into the incident.
The England team players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed penalty kicks during the European Championship game against Italy on Sunday, July 11, which contributed to Italy’s 3-2 victory following a 1-1 draw. The game was Britain’s first shot at an international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
Following the loss, the players were bombarded with a disturbing amount of “offensive and racist” social media posts that are now being investigated by the Metropolitan Police and have been condemned by the team coach, English Football Association and social media platforms where the hate speech was spread.
“For some of them to be abused is unforgivable,” said England coach Gareth Southgate during a press conference. “Some of it has come from abroad, we have been told this, but some of it is from this country. 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,” said Southgate.
He continued,, “We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together. Everybody has to remember when they support the team that they also represent England and should represent what we stand for. We can’t control. We can only set the example that we believe we should and represent the country in the way that we feel. I think the players […] have had a positive effect on lots of areas of society, but we can’t affect everything. Other people have responsibilities in those areas and we’ve all got to work collectively to constantly improve those things.”
The English Football Association also denounced the outpouring of hate, vowing to “continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game.”
“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible,” the organization said in a statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real-life consequences.”
The vitriolic reactions to the match made their way back to the Royal Family, with Prince William issuing a statement saying that he was “sickened” by the “totally unacceptable” racist backlash. “I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match,” the account from the British royal tweeted. “It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour. It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable. W”
Both Facebook and Twitter have confirmed that each is doing all it can to remove the hateful comments that violate the terms and conditions of the sites.
“We quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules,” Facebook said in a statement.
Twitter echoed the sentiments, agreeing that the “abhorrent racist abuse” has “absolutely no place” on the platform, which confirmed it already had removed over 1,000 tweets, in addition to permanently banning many accounts. “In the past 24 hours, through a combination of machine learning based automation and human review, we have swiftly removed over 1,000 Tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules — the vast majority of which we detected ourselves proactively using technology,” Twitter said in a statement.
“We will continue to take action when we identify any tweets or accounts that violate our policies,” the brand added.