Racist abuse of England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho & Bukayo Saka 'unforgiveable'

BBC Technology 12 Jul 2021 11:00
Sancho and Rashford

England manager Gareth Southgate said the racist abuse aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy was "unforgiveable".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Football Association also condemned it.

All three players missed penalties in the 3-2 shootout loss and were targeted on social media after the game.

The Metropolitan Police is investigating the abuse and said "it will not be tolerated".

"It's just not what we stand for," said Southgate.

"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.

"It's my decision who takes the penalties, it's not a case of players not volunteering or more experienced players backing out."

England had reached their first final in a major tournament since winning the World Cup in 1966 and, despite taking the lead against Italy, drew 1-1 after extra time before a penalty shootout.

"Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves."

On the day the tournament started on 11 June, the prime minister did not condemn fans who jeered when England players took the knee during two warm-up games.

We implore government to act quickly - FA

It added: "We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team.

"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.

Rashford highlighted racial abuse he received on social media in May after losing the Europa League final with Manchester United.

Social media companies have been criticised for a perceived lack of action on racist abuse on their platforms, and in April Instagram announced a tool to enable users to automatically filter out abusive messages from those they do not follow.

On the back of the abuse suffered by England's players after the Euro 2020 final, Facebook said it had recently announced tougher measures on its Instagram platform, including permanently deleting accounts that repeatedly send abusive direct messages.

"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.

"No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we're committed to keeping our community safe from abuse."

Southgate said his team would "heal together as a team now" and that "we're there for them [Sancho, Rashford and Saka] and I know that 99% of the public will be as well".

"He's become such a popular member of the group and I know he has got everybody's support."

Former England striker and BBC pundit Alan Shearer said he hoped "social media companies expose these individuals" who post online abuse.

"The positives are that it allows so many of these players and squad to show their personality on the pitch and, most importantly, off the pitch.

"What is wrong with some people? It is just so sad and ridiculous. I hope the social media companies expose these individuals. Absolutely disgusting."

The 19-year-old has been at Arsenal since he was seven and the Gunners said they were "proud" of the winger's exploits at Euro 2020 and told him to "hold your head high".

"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.

"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.

Former England defender Gary Neville criticised the stance of the prime minister and feared the worst when Sancho, Rashford and Saka missed their penalties.

"I expected it the minute that the three players that missed, missed."

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

Such is the volume of abusive comments that the companies rely increasingly on automated systems to weed it out. But these have severe limitations. On example - an orangutan emoji was used in an Instagram comment about one England footballer. But the user who reported it got a message saying "our technology has found that this comment doesn't go against our Community Guidelines."

There will be pressure on the companies to make it impossible to use certain words or emojis - but they will point to criticism from others who say they should not be policing speech that may be distasteful but is not illegal.

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EnglandRashfordMarcus RashfordJadon SanchoBukayo Saka
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