British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday condemned racist abuse on social media aimed at players of the England soccer team after their narrow defeat in the final of Euro 2020.
Police said they would also investigate the comments made towards Black players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who missed spot-kicks in a penalty shootout with Italy following a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
“This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media,” Johnson said on Twitter. “Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
The England team has been highlighting the issue of racism throughout the tournament, taking the knee before all their matches. However, some fans have booed the gesture, with critics viewing it as an unwanted politicization of sport and expression of sympathy with far-left politics.
Some ministers themselves have been accused of hypocrisy for refusing to criticise those who booed the team, but now join condemnation of the racist abuse.
“I am disgusted that England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media,” said Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel, who last month said she did not support players taking the knee because it was “gesture politics”.
While the social media feeds of the players also showed huge levels of support and gratitude from fans for the tournament, the abuse overshadowed the positive messages.
“We’re disgusted that some of our squad – who have given everything for the shirt this summer – have been subjected to discriminatory abuse online after tonight’s game,” the England team tweeted.
The English Football Association said fans who exhibited such “disgusting behaviour” were not welcome.
“We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible,” the FA said in a statement.
London Police said officers were aware of the offensive and racist comments, and would take action.
“It will not be tolerated and it will be investigated,” the force said on Twitter.
The issue of online abuse of players led to British soccer authorities briefly boycotting social media platforms to highlight the issue, a stand joined by other sporting bodies. Tech firms have been repeatedly accused of failing to do enough to deal with the problem.
In May, the British government announced plans for a new law that could see social media companies fined up to 10% of turnover or 18 million pounds ($25 million) if they failed to stamp out online abuses such as racist hate crimes.