'We will not let racists have the final word'

Unite condemns online racism against England football players as four arrested over racist abuse on social media

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In the latest news on the scandal involving racist abuse against England football players, four people have been arrested in connection with the abuse.

After England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 Final on Sunday (July 11), three players – Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho – became targets of racist abuse online, with social media posts shocking the nation.

Now, the four people who have been arrested face charges of inciting racial hatred.

Earlier in the week, prime minister Boris Johnson said he would aim to change banning orders so that anyone found guilty of online racial abuse would be banned from matches, just as people who are found to be perpetrating racial abuse offline can be barred from attending football games.

Johnson said a consultation would begin on changing the banning orders, but admitted that the change may not go into effect until after the long-delayed online safety bill is passed.

The prime minister stood accused earlier in the week of ‘giving the green light’ to racists by refusing to condemn fans booing England players who took a knee before matches in protest against racism.

Home secretary Priti Patel was likewise criticised for saying last month that fans had a right to boo the players, dismissing those who take a knee as playing “gesture politics”.

In response to the racist abuse directed against the three England players, Unite’s National Black & Asian Ethnic Minority Committee (NBAEM) said in a statement that it “strongly condemns the racist abuse and comments posted on social media targeting England football players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho”.

“Like the rest of the country watching the UEFA Euro Finals, Unite BAEM members looked forward to the cup coming to England,” the statement read. “To then witness the vile attack on social media platforms against Black football players who played a vital role in securing a place in the final, BAEM communities across the country were yet again forced to endure the collective trauma of living in a society still mired in racism.”

Commenting, Unite national officer for equalities Harish Patel said, “Our members are disgusted at the few who have chosen to resort to shameful racist comments on social media. We applaud Gareth Southgate for having the trust and confidence in fielding a team of players who are proudly working class, diverse and multi-faith.

“While we know it was a small number of people who were behind these racist attacks, let’s not forget too that racism does not exist in a vacuum,” he added. “Racists are empowered by our institutions which all-too often turn a blind eye to the racism that still pervades our society.

“We need political leaders who have the courage to publicly and unequivocally condemn racism – this includes not only racism in its most odious and explicit forms as we saw in the social media posts, but also the more subtle forms of racism that we witness in everyday life that so often goes unacknowledged,” Patel continued.

“The NBAEM Committee stands in solidarity with the players who were attacked and will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that the trade union movement makes it an important priority to stand up against racism in all its forms.”

Unite NBAEM Committee Chair Susan Matthews added, “We embrace the England team’s success despite the disappointing result. The racism we witnessed as a nation after the match was an uprising of pure evil from a minority who seek to spread hate and division in our society, to demonise and diminish the contribution of Black players on the team.

“It is imperative that both off- and online racial abuse – which constitutes a hate crime — is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she noted. “We also support those found guilty of online racist abuse to be banned from attending matches. We will not let these racists have the final word – there are more of us than there are of them and together we will challenge them at every turn.”

By Hajera Blagg

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