In the wake of a trio of black England players missing penalties in the shootout to decide whether England or Italy were crowned European champions, England experienced a surge in racism. I had argued passionately on sports forums that England fans had greatly improved their behaviour in recent years; the stuff witnessed in the fallout of Euro 2020 has forced me to review my own words.
Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka do not deserve the abuse they have received. Penalties are a lottery, and on a different day they’d be heroes for scoring them. Instead some truly vile trolls and miscreants have reared their ugly heads, exposing themselves for what they really are. Sadly, this appears to be a greater issue than many – myself included – would like to believe. I don’t believe we’re dealing with a majority – far from it – but the minority is larger than we’d previously considered.
This flame has been fanned by government ministers who’d previously bemoaned taking the knee as ‘virtue signalling’. Home Secretary Priti Patel went as far as to say England fans had every right to boo the gesture their own players took part in, at every single game of the tournament. After the trolling of Rashford, Sancho and Saka on social media, she and PM Johnson were quick to denounce the incidents, yet encouraging people to boo an anti-racism gesture seems counter-intuitive for someone claiming to criticise racist behaviour.
Thankfully some high-profile personalities have spoken out quite strongly against this pathetic dishonest government. Whilst I may loathe Gary Neville the ex-Manchester United player, I admire Gary Neville the man for his use of his platform. He branded Boris Johnson a liar, and rightly so, over the PM’s statements about taking the knee. England defender Tyrone Mings called out Priti Patel over her hypocrisy, following the conclusion of the tournament and her statements on racism. England’s players had been invited to meet the PM but it’s believed they collectively declined, a bold statement.
People will ask ‘why take a knee?’ People don’t like it because it makes them uncomfortable. They want a form of protesting racism and social injustice that doesn’t make them shuffle awkwardly in their seats. They want something they can overlook or gloss over, something they don’t have to confront. In other words, protests about racism should be quiet and not make waves, lest they offend the white man. That’s all the more reason to take the knee and be loud in highlighting the problem of racism. I applaud the footballers who have stood up to the trashy Tories, and we need more of that.