In the hours after England lost a gut-wrenching Euro final to Italy, three Black players suffered a cascade of racist abuse on social media. The comments drew condemnation from the team and British authorities, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The players, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Bukayo Saka, were singled out for abuse on Twitter and Instagram. Per the Washington Post, this included “monkey and banana emoji and racist comments posted underneath photographs of the players on their personal Instagram accounts.” And a mural dedicated to Rashford in Manchester was vandalized.
Twitter said it had removed some accounts for abuse violations, and British police said they were investigating the posts.
All three players missed penalty kicks in the shoot-out that determined whether England would win its first major soccer championship since 1966 and finally cast off the demons that have been haunting the country for decades. England squandered an early lead in the game, then squandered another lead in the shoot-out itself, making the loss that much more excruciating.
Race was a major undercurrent throughout the team’s run to the finals, which captivated the country. The team’s makeup, with several descendants of immigrants as starters, was seen as a hopeful symbol of multiracial unity. Its decision to kneel before kickoff to protest racism drew boos from fans and scorn from some Conservative lawmakers, becoming grist for England’s churning culture wars.
But on Sunday, leading figures and organizations across England denounced the abuse. In a statement, the country’s Football Association said it “strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media.” The English team itself tweeted a statement voicing similar sentiments. Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, tweeted, “I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match.” And Prime Minister Johnson, who had previously refused to condemn fans’ booing of the team, said on Twitter, “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”