England footballer Tyrone Mings has hit out at Home Secretary Priti Patel after three players were subject to racist abuse in the wake of the Three Lions’ loss to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.
“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens,” the defender wrote on Twitter.
Three England players – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – were subjected to racist abuse on social media in the wake of missing spot kicks in the penalty shootout defeat to Italy.
Mings, who plays for Aston Villa, said of the abuse of his teammates: “Waking up today and seeing my brothers being racially abused for being brave enough to put themselves in a position to help this country, is something that sickens, but doesn’t surprise me.”
In his first comments since Sunday’s defeat, Rashford said on Twitter: “I’ve grown into a sport where I expected to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch.
“I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from.”
He added: “I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 year old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that.”
Boris Johnson and the home secretary both condemned the abuse, but the pair have been branded “total hypocrites” by critics, who have highlighted ministers’ equivocation over whether football fans should jeer the national side for taking the knee.
Former England footballer Gary Neville, who is now a pundit on Sky Sports, told Sky News: “The prime minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism. It starts at the very top.
“I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that I woke up to those headlines; I expected it the minute that the three players missed.”
The home secretary last month described taking the knee as “gesture politics” and said England fans had a “choice” over whether or not to boo players as they made their protest.
Ahead of the tournament, the prime minister told England fans not to boo footballers taking the knee. But it came after he had previously failed to criticise supporters who jeered the protest against racial injustice.
Ms Patel tweeted on Monday morning: “I am disgusted that @England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media.
“It has no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable.”
Speaking later in the Commons, she condemned the “sickening racist abuse” that Rashford, Sancho and Saka had received, adding: “Racist abuse is utterly unacceptable and illegal, whether it takes place in front of people or online – and those individuals who commit racist offences should rightly face the full force of the law.
“Social media companies in particular have a clear responsibility for the content that they host on their platforms and they can no longer ignore some of the appalling, vile, racist, violent and hateful content that appears on their platforms.”
Mr Johnson wrote 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.”
The PM added later at a Downing Street news conference that those who had racially abused the England players should “crawl back under the rock from which you emerged”.
Speaking in the Commons, Labour MP Zarah Sultana accused Mr Johnson of being someone who “sanctions racism” with previous comments he has made.
“This is not freedom of speech, it is hate speech but it doesn’t come in a vacuum,” she said.
“It is promoted by those at the very top, from the prime minister, who sanctions racism by describing Muslim women as letterboxes, black people as piccaninnies, and refused to condemn so-called fans booing players taking the knee.”
England manager Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane have both condemned the racist abuse.
Southgate described it as “unforgivable”, while Kane said the young trio “deserve support and backing”.
“If you abuse anyone on social media, you’re not an England fan and we don’t want you,” he added in a message on Twitter.
The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) has launched an investigation into the abuse.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead, said: “Investigations are under way to identify the offenders.
“We have had excellent support during the tournament from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and enquiries are already being progressed.”
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