Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all suffered online racial abuse following England's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy; Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet with Facebook and Twitter to discuss how best to prevent further such occurrences from happening
Tuesday 13 July 2021 15:33, UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to meet with social media companies in Downing Street on Tuesday to discuss how to better tackle online abuse.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka's social media pages were flooded with racist comments after their penalty shootout misses during England's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, leading the FA to release a statement condemning the "disgusting behaviour".
The Prime Minister immediately criticised the abuse the players had suffered, insisting the perpetrators "should be ashamed", and will now meet with Facebook and Twitter to discuss the next steps.
"The Prime Minister opened cabinet by repeating his condemnation of the racist abuse aimed at some of the England team following Sunday's Euro 2020 final," the Prime Minister's official spokesperson said.
"He said the abuse was utterly disgraceful and had emerged from the dark spaces of the internet.
"He said he would use today's meeting with social media firms to reiterate the urgent need for action, ahead of tougher laws coming into force through the online harms bill.
"He added there is no question this kind of abuse is extremely upsetting, unfair and needs to be stamped out."
Asked what the Prime Minister would ask social media firms to do, the PMOS said: "I don't want to preempt what he will say, but we think through the scale and prevalence of racist abuse that social media companies need to up their game to prevent online abuse now."
The subject of online abuse was raised in the House of Lords on Tuesday afternoon.
Lord Coaker asked whether Baroness Barran, the Lords Minister for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would "call out those who dismissed taking the knee against racism as gesture politics or refused to condemn fans booing players".
Baroness Barran said: "The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) has been absolutely clear that people should feel free to show their respect and condemn racism in whatever way they choose."
A vandalised mural of Rashford has become a symbol of love and solidarity, the man behind the street artwork said after hundreds of well-wishers covered it with anti-racism messages of support.
The mural in south Manchester, was defaced within hours of England's loss to Italy, in what police are treating as a racist incident.
Ed Wellard, the founder Withington Walls, the community street art project behind the mural, covered the graffiti up until Tuesday morning when the artist returned to repair the damage - watched by dozens of supportive locals. The mural, on the side of a cafe in Withington, has seen hundreds of visitors leaving notes, flags, flowers and banners in support of Rashford.
On Monday, Wellard tried to paint over some of the abusive graffiti before covering the rest with bin bags before street artist Akse P19 could return to make good on the damage. A spontaneous online crowd-funder for the mural has now raised more than £30,000, which Wellard said will be used for further artwork.
"There's been an outpouring of kind of love and solidarity and it's really heartening," he said. "It's a lovely thing isn't it? I watched the footage with my friends and saw those penalties being missed and all I felt was empathy and compassion for those young men, they've done themselves proud, on and off the pitch.
"I wanted it covered before the kids went to school. No one should be seeing that.
"We've got politicians that are trying to divide us, we need to come together. That team came under criticism from our Government for taking the knee. So clearly at the very top we need to address that kind of attitude. We had the MP from Dover, Elphicke, criticising Rashford. That's not acceptable."
Rashford thanked fans for their support on Monday night, tweeting: "The messages I have received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears.
"The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I'm Marcus Rashford, 23 years old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester."
The mural, based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham, was created last November in recognition of Rashford's work to tackle child food poverty.
His mother provided the quote on the mural, which reads: "Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose."
Anton Ferdinand believes England should be barred from hosting another major football tournament until racist abuse and social disorder problems can be eradicated from the game.
England boss Gareth Southgate's inclusive atmosphere buoyed the nation en route to a first major tournament final since 1966, where the team suffered penalty shoot-out agony after the scores were locked at 1-1 following extra-time.
Ugly scenes in London's Leicester Square and at Wembley before and after the final could have damaged England's chances of hosting the 2030 World Cup.
Asked if England should be denied host status until the wider problems can be solved, Ferdinand told the PA news agency: "Yes, there should be consequences, there definitely should be consequences. That's how people learn. But you've got to be willing to learn, that's the problem.
"You've got to be willing to understand and be open-minded on what it is, especially when talking about the discrimination side of things. A lot of people who shout obscenities and things like that, they will never know what it's like to be racially abused, racially profiled.
"But what they can do is try to understand it. And we're in a different generation now, what we're seeing is a multi-cultural stance. It's no longer just ethnic minorities speaking about this.
"So it's time for these bigots and these uneducated fools to get in tune with today's society. And for people who know it's wrong and don't want to speak out about it and check these people, you're also part of the problem.
"To combat this and try to eradicate it, everyone needs to speak about it not just the people on the receiving end."