THE racial abuse on social media of three England players who missed penalties in the final of the European Championships on Sunday has been condemned by church leaders.
‘Today we’ll be learning how to tackle . . . racism’
The footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka have all been subject to racial abuse online since England lost 3-2 in a penalty shootout to Italy at Wembley Stadium. The abuse included racist comments, as well as monkey and banana emojis, posted underneath photos on their personal Instagram accounts. A mural of Mr Rashford in the Withington area of Manchester was defaced, but then covered in supportive messages from fans.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the Football Association, said that he was “sickened” by the racial abuse of the players. “It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable.” The Prime Minister also condemned the abuse.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is on sabbatical, wrote on social media on Monday afternoon that the England team was “an example, a gift and a reflection of what’s best about this country. Rashford, Sancho and Saka showed incredible courage in stepping up to take penalties. Those who are racially abusing them show the opposite and must be held accountable.”
The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, wrote on Twitter the same day that the racial abuse was “utterly shocking and unacceptable. . . Praying for a better future where we are all seen as part of one humanity.”
On Monday afternoon, on the last day of its meeting, a joint statement was issued by the officers of the General Synod: Archbishop Cottrell; the Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Province of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler; the Prolocutor of the Province of York, Canon Joyce Jones; the Chair of the House of Laity, Dr Jamie Harrison; and the Vice Chair of the House of Laity, Liz Paver.
“On behalf of the General Synod we wish to applaud the achievements of the England men’s football team in reaching the final of Euro 2020,” the statement said. “The multicultural composition of the team, and the sense of mutual support which they exude, is a model for the whole country.
“As officers of the General Synod we wish to express our deep disappointment and concern that the achievement has been marred by disgraceful racial abuse.”
The statement was circulated among Synod members as a notice paper.
On Tuesday, the bishops in Blackburn diocese, and the Bishop’s Adviser on UKME issues, the Revd Sarah Gill, said in a statement: “We stand with the Archbishop of York, Officers of the General Synod, and with the England team in condemning racism in all its forms.
“Since 2016, Gareth Southgate has built a diverse and tightly knit team of young men who have worked tirelessly to achieve their own dreams and to fulfil the dreams of a nation; inspiring generations of fans with their footballing flair in the process. . .
“We join with people of good will in our county in challenging and calling out those who — through the spectre of racist abuse — choose to comment on the outcome of a football match based on colour of skin rather than character. They condemn no-one but themselves.
“We also call on the authorities — including social media companies — to ensure those who are responsible are held fully accountable for their shocking actions.”
The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Sonia Hicks and Barbara Easton, said in a statement that the racial abuse of the players was “abhorrent and deeply upsetting. . .
“We pray for the many who experience racism in their everyday lives and that we may all model ourselves on principles of love, compassion and respect for self and our neighbour alike.”
The Youth President of the Methodist Conference, Phoebe Parkin, said: “Sancho, Rashford, and Saka represented England so well. The racist abuse directed at them and the toxic nationalism shown by some England supporters burning Italian flags, booing during the national anthem and attacking Italian fans is inexcusable.
“Football isn’t the problem. The problem is that we live in a society where sexism, racism, nationalism, and violence are enabled, where not enough of us (including myself) actively work to challenge even the lowest levels of sexism, racism, and nationalism.”
After England lost the final on Sunday night, bishops and other members of the clergy expressed sympathy for the players who missed penalties, and congratulated the England team on reaching the final.
The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, posted on Twitter: “My heart breaks for Saka — too young to carry the hope of the whole country on his shoulders.”
The former Archbishop of York Lord Sentamu, who continued his social-media match commentary, as he had done during the semi-final last week, said that this was “a harsh and cruel end”. But he thanked the England side “for giving us hope and self-belief”, and acknowledged that the side had been “on an incredible journey”.