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British PM Condems Racist Social Media Attacks on Black Soccer Players

British PM Condems Racist Social Media Attacks on Black Soccer Players

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned racist social media attacks against Black players on Britain’s soccer team following its 3-2 loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 championship Sunday.

After the Italy and Britain remained 1-1 following regulation and extra time play, the teams were forced into a penalty shoot-out to decide the game. Black players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed kicks, giving Italy the victory.  

While most comments on social media were positive towards the British team, the three players started receiving racist comments immediately following the game.  

On his Twitter account, Johnson said the team deserves “to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”  Likewise, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, from his Twitter account, said there was no place for racism in soccer or anywhere else. He said those responsible must be held accountable.

The Football Assocation, British soccer’s governing organization, also issued a statement condemning all forms of racism and standing by its players.

London’s police department tweeted it was aware of the comments, called them unacceptable and said they would be investigated.  

England's players have made a strong stand against racism during tournament, taking a knee before their games including Sunday's final. Not all fans supported the gesture, with some booing in reaction.  

While Prime Minister Johnson urged fans not to boo the players, some critics felt his response was not strong enough, and that only encouraged racists. In an interview with SKY News Monday, former British soccer player Gary Neville put the blame for the response on Johnson.

Neville said, "The prime minister said that it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism. It starts at the very top. And so for me, I wasn't surprised in the slightest that I woke up this morning to those headlines.”

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