Vile racist abuse of England's players highlights why team was taking the knee: The Yorkshire Post says

At the start of the European Championships, Home Secretary Priti Patel labelled England players taking the knee as an anti-racism signal before matches as “gesture politics” while the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson refused to condemn those who booed them.

On Sunday night, the online racist abuse directed towards the players after their penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy sadly highlighted exactly why the team’s stance had been necessary.

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were all targeted by abusive posts in the wake of their missed penalties in the shoot-out.

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That such abuse should come after a few weeks in which the England team have performed wonderfully and created happy memories that will last a lifetime for their millions of fans makes the abuse even more disgusting, but in some respects that is besides the point.

England's Kyle Walker (left) and Kalvin Phillips with Italy's Ciro Immobile takes the knee before the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
England's Kyle Walker (left) and Kalvin Phillips with Italy's Ciro Immobile takes the knee before the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

As the writer Musa Okwonga powerfully expressed it: “Hate is a strong word. But the racists relying on black English footballers to bring them glory as if they were their servants, then turning on them as soon as they fell short of their dreams, have my deepest contempt.”

It should go without saying but even if the England players had performed badly, which they did not, such abuse would still have been despicable, disgusting and, as Gareth Southgate rightly put it, unforgivable.

Those who have made the posts should be ashamed and face the consequences which are already starting to happen. To give one small example, Leyton Orient have issued a three-year banning order to a season-ticket holder who was part of the abuse.

But politicians and pundits who openly and repeatedly questioned the motives of the players in taking the knee and belittled what they were doing should also reflect on the part they played in creating the environment for this sorry situation to unfold.

England's coach Gareth Southgate speaks to England's midfielder Bukayo Saka after their loss in the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP)

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