British Prime Minister back against racism in football ahead of talks

LONDON: The government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday denied accusations of hypocrisy over racism in football as it prepared to meet with social media officials following a deluge of abuse against England players.

In a moving statement, forward Marcus Rashford said he would “never apologize for who I am” after being one of three black players targeted by racists online in the final defeat of the team at Euro 2020 against Italy on Sunday.

Rashford’s England team-mate Tyrone Mings criticized Home Secretary Priti Patel, saying she “stoked the fire” by defending supporters who booed the players by taking the knee.

Patel had previously said taking the knee was a “policy of gestures” and Johnson, who enthusiastically waged a verbal war on so-called enlightened politics, had also been equivocal for days on the issue.

But his spokesperson insisted the PM had always wanted fans to support the team, amid doubts whether Downing Street could now implement a plan to welcome the players to a reception after tournament.

At a cabinet meeting, Johnson told his ministers that “the abuses were utterly shameful and emerged from the dark spaces of the Internet,” according to the spokesperson.

He said during his meeting later Tuesday with representatives of social media companies, the Prime Minister “will reiterate the urgent need for action, before tougher laws come into force” in Britain.

The government’s planned “online damage bill” will, for the first time, put companies such as Facebook and Twitter in the orbit of the UK communications regulator.

Under the bill, if social media companies fail to remove abusive content quickly, they could be fined up to £ 18million ($ 25million) or 10% of their turnover. annual global business, whichever is greater.

The allegation of hypocrisy leveled against the government by the Mings and even some Tory MPs is particularly dangerous for Johnson, as the England team enjoy widespread sympathy after their excruciating loss.

Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were attacked by racist trolls after missing penalties in the shootout loss to Italy.

Rashford had become a hero to many footballers inside and out by successfully lobbying Johnson to provide free school meals to underprivileged children during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am Marcus Rashford, a 23 year old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe in south Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have it, ”the Manchester United striker wrote on Twitter.

“I can be criticized for my performance all day, my penalty was not good enough, it should have come in but I will never apologize for who I am and where I come from,” Rashford added.

– Wall event –

Images on social media showed a mural honoring Rashford in Withington was disfigured, before residents covered the hate language with messages of support.

“Seeing the response to Withington brought me to the verge of tears,” Rashford said, as supporters planned a protest against the mural later Tuesday.

Premier League sides have been on their knees since last year following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States.

Patel had said on Monday that the racial abuse against the three players was “disgusting”, but Mings issued a scathing response.

“You can’t stoke the fire at the start of the tournament by calling our anti-racist message ‘gestural politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the thing we are campaigning against happens,” he tweeted.

Patel’s fellow Conservative MP and former defense minister Johnny Mercer said: “The painful truth is this guy (Mings) is absolutely right.

“Very uncomfortable with the position we conservatives are unnecessarily forced into.”

England manager Gareth Southgate has said the online abuse is “unforgivable”, and team captain Harry Kane has also lambasted the trolls.

“Three guys who’ve been brilliant all summer had the courage to step in and take a pen (penalty) when the stakes were high,” he said.

“They deserve support and support, not the vile racist abuse they have suffered.

“If you abuse someone on social media, you are not a fan of England and we don’t want you.”

The racist attacks were also strongly condemned by the English Football Association. Its president, Prince William, said he was “disgusted” by the abuse. -AFP

Add a Comment