William condemns ‘despicable’ online racist abuse against footballers

Laura Parnaby, PA
·2-min read

The Duke of Cambridge has said racist abuse in football is “despicable” and “must stop”, after several black players were targeted online this week.

Chelsea defender Reece James, West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and his teammates Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial have all suffered abuse via social media in recent days.

William, who is also the Football Association’s president, said on Twitter: “Racist abuse – whether on the pitch, in the stands, or on social media – is despicable and it must stop now.

Romaine Sawyers
Romaine Sawyers has been the target of racial abuse (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

“We all have a responsibility to create an environment where such abuse is not tolerated, and those who choose to spread hate and division are held accountable for their actions.

“That responsibility extends to the platforms where so much of this activity now takes place.

“I commend all those players, supporters, clubs and organisations who continue to call out and condemn this abuse in the strongest terms.”

So far, a 49-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of racially abusing Sawyers on Tuesday, and Greater Manchester Police are investigating comments made to Rashford on Saturday.

Manchester United’s shock defeat to the Premier League’s bottom side Sheffield United on Wednesday sparked a torrent of online abuse targeting defender Tuanzebe, who inadvertently turned home Oliver Burke’s winner, and forward Martial, including racist terms and monkey emojis.

United said in a statement that everyone at the club was “disgusted” by the abuse, adding “we utterly condemn it”, and urged social media platforms and regulators to strengthen measures against “these anonymous mindless idiots”.

But following the team’s goalless draw with Arsenal three days later, Rashford also received racist messages which he said showed “humanity and social media at its worst”.

Marcus Rashford
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford is the latest football star to be targeted by racist abuse online (Tim Keeton/PA).

He said on Twitter: “Yes I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am.

“No one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different.”

“I have beautiful children of all colours following me and they don’t need to read it. Beautiful colours that should only be celebrated,” he added.

James, another England international player, received abuse on Friday night, prompting a statement from Chelsea saying the club was “disgusted” by the abuse.

The player later said on Instagram: “We all have a part to play in making this world a better & more equal place! Racism is completely unacceptable! Human is our only race! @instagram you must do more!! #notoracism”.

The spate of racist comments has put pressure on the Government’s plans to introduce new laws on online abuse this year, and the Football Association has vowed to work with them and social media platforms to eradicate racism from the game.