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.
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.
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.
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