Racist abuse targets 3 English players who missed penalties against Italy: England's Bukayo Saka, centre, looks dejected after the team lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy via penalty shootout. (Carl Recine/Reuters). Three Black players who missed penalty kicks for England in the decisive European Championship shootout against Italy on Sunday night were subjected to racist abuse online, prompting the English Football Association to issue a statement condemning the language used against the players.
Bukayo Saka, at 19, is one of the youngest players on the England squad, missed the penalty that gave the title to Italy and denied England its first international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
It was England's third straight failure from the penalty spot in the shootout, with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho also missing.
The FA said in a statement it was "appalled" by the abuse of the three players. The team had taken a knee before games at the Euros to signal its support for an end to racial inequality, and the young, multi-ethnic squad won the hearts of the soccer-mad country before the shootout failure brought out all-too-familiar messages of hate.
"We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible," the FA statement said. "We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real-life consequences."
London's Metropolitan Police also said it was investigating "offensive and racist" messages on social media.
'We win and lose together,' says England manger Gareth Southgate, whose decision to bring on Marcus Rashford, right, and Jadon Sancho, left, to take penalties has been criticized by some following Italy's victory. (Andy Rain/Reuters)
Rashford, who plays for Manchester United, noted the racial abuse he received on social media in May after the team lost the Europa League final.
England coach Gareth Southgate was criticized for his strategy of bringing in Rashford and Sancho off the bench to take penalties while star Raheem Sterling was sidelined in the shootout.
"They were the best takers we had left on the pitch," Southgate said. "We win and lose together."
Fans without tickets stormed past security and gained access to the European Championship final between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium in London. 0:20
All three players targeted are part of a young England squad that has been widely praised for its diversity and social conscience. Rashford, for one, has been at the forefront of a campaign against child poverty, which convinced the British government to restore free lunches for thousands of poor children amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves," he has faced criticism for emboldening those booing the England team for taking a knee before their matches to protest racial injustice.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, accused Johnson of a failure of leadership for not calling out the booing of the England team.
"The prime minister failed to call that out and the actions and inactions of leaders have consequences, so I'm afraid the prime minister's words today ring hollow," he said.
Prime minister receives some blame
"We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together, in people being able to relate to the national team and the national team stands for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue," Southgate said Monday.
Gary Neville, a former Manchester United player and now a TV commentator, said he wasn't surprised that the three players who missed their penalties were targeted for racist abuse, and called out Johnson.
"The prime minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who are trying to promote equality and defend against racism," Neville said on Sky News. "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."
Prince William, who is the president of the FA, joined the chorus of condemnation, saying he was "sickened" by the racist abuse aimed at the England players.
"It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour," he wrote on Twitter. "It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable."