William joins Prime Minister in condemning racist abuse of England stars

·7-min read

The Duke of Cambridge has joined the Prime Minister in condemning the “sickening” racist abuse of England players on social media after their Euro 2020 final defeat.

William, who is president of the Football Association, said the footballers should not have to experience this “abhorrent behaviour”, while Boris Johnson said the team deserve to be hailed as “heroes” following the Three Lions’ loss to Italy.

The Football Association also issued a statement saying it is “appalled”, while the Metropolitan Police vowed to investigate.

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The duke, who watched the match at Wembley with Prince George and the Duchess of Cambridge, visited the England dressing room after their defeat.

In a tweet written personally by William and signed off with his initial W, he said: “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. W”.

Euro 2020
Ed Wellard tapes bin liners across offensive wording on the mural of Manchester United striker and England footballer Marcus Rashford (Peter Byrne/PA)

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all failed from the spot on Sunday night as England went down on penalties.

The trio’s social media pages were quickly flooded with racist comments, leading the Prime Minister, Duke of Cambridge and the FA to condemn the “disgusting behaviour”.

A mural honouring Rashford, following his campaign to feed schoolchildren, has been been vandalised with graffiti in Manchester.

Mr Johnson tweeted: “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.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she is “disgusted” by the “vile” racist abuse players were subjected to.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted that he “shared the anger” of the “appalling racist abuse” towards the “heroic” players.

The Prince of Wales’ official Twitter account tweeted a picture of the England team taken during Sunday’s final with words from Charles’ message to Britain’s Caribbean community on Windrush Day last year.

Charles said: “Recognising the rich diversity of cultures which make this country so special, and in many ways unique, lies at the heart of what we can be as a nation.”

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has accused Mr Johnson and the Home Secretary of giving licence to the racists who abused the England players, following their stance on players taking the knee to highlight racial inequality and discrimination.

Both the Prime Minister and Ms Patel have previously described the action as “gestures”.

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Ms Rayner tweeted: “Let me be clear. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary gave license to the racists who booed the England players and are now racially abusing England players.”

She added they “…are like arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on. Total hypocrites.”

In a briefing last month, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “On taking the knee, specifically, the Prime Minister is more focused on action rather than gestures… but he fully respects the right of those who do choose to peacefully protest to make their feelings known.”

Three days later, however, in a different briefing, when asked if Mr Johnson backs players taking the knee, a Number 10 spokesman said: “Yes. The Prime Minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

“The Prime Minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo.”

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Ms Patel meanwhile described footballers taking the knee as “gesture politics” during an interview with GB News last month.

She did not condemn football fans who booed players for taking the knee, calling it a “choice for them” after Gareth Southgate’s side faced jeers from some supporters during their first match in the Uefa tournament.

Following the abuse towards players on Sunday, an FA spokesman said: “The FA 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.

“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.

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“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.

“Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.”

The Met also condemned the “unacceptable” abuse, adding that they will be investigating the “offensive and racist” social media posts.

Meanwhile, the Met Police Federation, which represents thousands of London’s police, criticised people who hurt officers after the match, tweeting: “These people should be ashamed of themselves. They are not fans. They are thugs. We wish our injured colleagues well.”

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Facebook – which owns Instagram – said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and encouraged people to use the tools it offers to block abuse.

A company spokesperson said: “In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs.

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

Twitter said it had proactively removed more than 1,000 posts over the past 24 hours which violated its policy and also taken swift action to permanently suspend a number of accounts.

Football players are regularly subjected to abuse after games, with Rashford and Raheem Sterling among those speaking out against racist hatred.

Before the tournament, England manager Southgate said his “paternal instincts kick in” and told those who sent such messages: “You’re on the losing side.”

The official Twitter account for the England men’s and women’s national teams offered support to the victimised players, tweeting: “We stand with our players.”

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on social media companies to do more to hold to account those responsible for sending online abuse.

He wrote on Twitter: “There is absolutely no place for racism in football or anywhere else.”

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