‘It starts at the top’: England trio racially abused after missing penalties in Euro 2020 defeat – and some blame PM Boris Johnson

12 Jul, 2021 10:17

A trio of England players have suffered racist abuse online after missing penalties in a tense shootout at Wembley that handed the Euro 2020 title to Italy, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was called out for hypocrisy.

The Three Lions had captivated a nation with their brave campaign which saw them reach their first final for 55 years.

However, the final at Wembley ended in familiar agony for England fans as their team went down in a shootout as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed their spot-kick efforts. 

READ MORE: England’s agonizing wait for glory goes on as Italy win Euro 2020 on penalties at Wembley

With all three players of either black or mixed-race descent, they predictably received racist abuse from the darkest corners of the internet on social media within minutes, which caused an "appalled" FA to make a statement. 

"We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behavior is not welcome in following the team," the English football governing body added.

"We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.

"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."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also addressed the matter, saying: "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 was "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," she added.

Yet the pair of politicians were quickly accused of hypocrisy by detractors.

Earlier in the tournament, when England took the knee, they separately refused to condemn those who booed the action and said they didn't believe in gesture politics despite then going on to wear the Three Lions shirt in public and, in the case of Johnson, cover 10 Downing Street in St George's Flags and bunting.

"No surprise there are racists in our society when the PM encouraged booing the players taking the knee, and then put an England shirt on and pretended to be a fan," said one commenter.

"Proper leadership coupled with those with voices and platforms using them for the good might start changing things."

Making an appearance on Sky News, Manchester United legend and TV pundit Gary Neville, who has long been critical of the ruling Conservative government, started by saying: "I'm just reading your breaking news and it says 'PM condemns racist abuse of England players." 

"The prime minister said it was okay for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism," Neville went on.

"Two or three weeks ago, we had a manager I think everybody in this country trusts, a leader who everyone in this country trusts.

“We had players line up for five days on the bounce, telling us that they were taking a knee against racism and to promote equality.

"We had high-ranking ministers including the Prime Minister in this country say that it’s OK for our population to boo them for taking the knee against racism and promoting equality.

"It starts at the top. What do you think is going to happen underneath in life?" he asked.

"The parents do something, the children follow. Why are we surprised by this any more? Seriously, you’ve got to look at the roots of this.

"There’s been so much division in this country over the last two or three years. The way Brexit was debated. Not Brexit itself, remain or leave, the actual way in which it was debated. It promotes division.

"The taking of the knee over the past month against racism was ridiculed by our top ranking government officials.

“When we get racist abuse after a football match at the end of a tournament, I expect it unfortunately because it exists, and it’s actually promoted by the Prime Minister, who called Muslim women letterboxes, [and] said they look like letterboxes," Neville highlighted.

"I expected that the minute the three players that missed miss. The fact of the matter is there is an issue obviously in football there is an issue in society where we feel it's acceptable basically to criticize players for sporting actions because of the color of their skin."