Racism and the Euro 2020 Final: How do we ensure this never happens again?
Much excitement and hope was generated by the success of the English football team in their attempt to bring football home at Wembley in the Euro 2020 Final on the 11th of July. However, this was quickly tarnished by the behaviour of some football fans. After missing penalty shots - resulting in a 3-2 win for Italy- the England players, Marcus Rashford, 23, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 19, were subjected to a torrent of online racist abuse.
The Government has since condemned the abuse and Boris Johnson tweeted that "This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media". He followed this up by stating that "Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves." Yet for many, especially those from the Black community, this seems like an empty gesture made in an attempt to demonstrate solidarity in the face of public pressure. This sense of performative anti-racism is heightened when it is considered that the statement of condemnation comes from a Prime Minister who has previously likened Muslim women to ‘letter boxes’ and referred to Black people as 'piccaninnies' with 'watermelon smiles'.
Additionally, the fact that the PM did not condemn the crowds who booed the English team, who are representative of the diverse and multicultural nature of the country, for taking the knee - in support of Black Lives Matter - brings into question the validity of the Prime Minister’s words.
Furthermore, the Home Secretary Priti Patel labelled the act of taking the knee ‘gesture politics’, minimising and trivialising their message.
What the government has therefore demonstrated since the final is an empty and
performative anti-racism stance – proving once again that addressing racism is far from a priority.
This is a shared feeling - the England defender, Tyrone Mings tweeted: ‘You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘gesture politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens’.
This all comes following a government report from March this year which concluded that there is no systemic racism in the UK. Therefore, indicating the fact that the government need to adjust the way it discusses and addresses racism within sport as well as more broadly. Only by recognising the existence of racism and the hurt it causes can change begin to be made.
Following the final there has been some action taken to punish those responsible for the racist abuse of Rashford, Sancho and Saka and an investigative police unit set up. Since then, arrests have been made and there is talk of implementing ‘football bans’ for those who engage themselves in racist abuse online.
Despite this the question that many have been asking remains: where is the action from the social media giants?
In April of this year the Premier League conducted a four-day boycott of social media in order to protest the lack of action taken to prevent and remove racism and other forms of discrimination from its platforms. The abuse that followed the Euro 2020 final has since highlighted the importance and necessity for these online platforms to take action.
Saka addressed this issue, calling out Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in an Instagram post: writing that ‘I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages’. Adding that ‘I don’t want any child or adult to receive the hateful and hurtful messages me Marcus and Jadon have received this week.’
What this emphasises is the scary fact that racism is so deeply rooted in English football culture, as well as more widely throughout society, that Black players know to expect such abuse.
The Government has now announced that fines for online platforms which fail to address racism could be put in place. However, it is a sad reality if the only way social media companies can be prompted to remove hateful comments from its platforms is to protect their profits.
The online abuse of football players that we have witnessed is a symptom of the wider problems faced by society and the inherent racism that exists within the UK. What is evident from the consequences of the Euro 2020 final is that racism is not as covert in England as is often assumed. The behaviour of some England fans and the abhorrent racist abuse that Rashford, Sancho and Saka have faced indicates a reality which the government and British society so often refuses to recognise. It is moments like this that prove to us all why solidarity with BLM is so necessary. The reality is that both the government and social media giants, as well as all those that use these platforms, need to be taking greater steps to ensure racism has no place within football culture and society as a whole.