“It’s just not what we stand for”: public figures from Prince William to Gareth Southgate condemn racist abuse aimed at England players

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  • Prominent figures in entertainment, politics and sport speak out about the 'abhorrent' racism aimed at England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following last night's Euros defeat.

    It wasn’t quite the result the country was hoping for, as last night Italy defeated England 3-2 to become the Euro 2020 champions. With everyone from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Boris Johnson in attendance, Wembley (and, we’ll bet, your local) was packed to the rafters with fans cheering on the England squad in their first major international final since 1966.

    But it’s the torrent of online racist abuse aimed at England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka that has proved to be the biggest blow for a country that just hours before stood united in support of their most talented sports stars.

    In abuse branded “unforgivable” by England manager Gareth Southgate, Rashford, Sancho and Saka were targeted on social media after all three missed penalties in the 3-2 shootout loss. The Metropolitan Police is currently investigating the abuse, saying “it will not be tolerated”.

    Telling the press that he decided who took the penalties, Southgate said: “It’s just not what we stand for.”

    He continued, “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.”

    Prince William, who attended last night’s match with the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George just hours after an appearance at the Wimbledon final, called the racist abuse “abhorrent behaviour”, writing on Twitter, “I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match. It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour. It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable.”

    A mural of Marcus Rashford in his hometown of Manchester was also defaced following the loss. Quoting Rashford’s mother Melanie, it reads: “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play for the biggest role in your purpose.”

    Marcus Rashford mural in Manchester defaced as England players subjected to torrent of online racial abuse

    A woman covers over the defaced Marcus Rashford mural in Manchester.

    Rashford, the first-ever male winner of a Marie Claire Future Shaper award for his tireless activism around ending food poverty, highlighted the racial abuse he was subjected to on social media after losing the Europa League final with Manchester United back in March. The 23-year-old footballer wrote on Twitter at the time: “At least 70 racial slurs on my social accounts counted so far. For those working to make me feel any worse than I already do, good luck trying.”

    Awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in October, Rashford has been an ambassador of FareShare since March 2020, and was central to the government’s U-turn on a decision to deny free school meals to disadvantaged children during the school holidays.

    Team mate Jadon Sancho has also been a vocal anti-racism advocate, and was among the sports stars protesting against racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police officer Derek Chauvin last May.

    Following the abuse, The Football Association are calling for social media companies to be more proactive in removing racist posts from their platforms. Twitter said it had removed more than 1,000 posts over the past 24 hours and suspended a number of accounts for violating its rules, while Facebook-owned Instagram said it had recently announced tougher measures to crack down on online harassment, including permanently deleting accounts that repeatedly send abusive direct messages.

    We will continue to update this story.

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