Arsenal condemns racist social media abuse directed at their player Bukayo Saka in wake of penalty loss

Bukayo Saka is consoled by Gareth Southgate following defeat in the Euro 2020 Championship Final (Photo: Getty Images)

Arsenal have condemned the racist social media abuse directed at their player Bukayo Saka in the wake of England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 202 final.

Saka, along with England team-mates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, have all faced a swathe of racial abuse on the social media feeds after missing penalties in the shoot-out on Sunday (11 July) night.

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England manager Gareth Southgate described the racist online abuse directed at some of his players as “unforgivable”.

'This cannot continue'

Arsenal has praised the performance of 19-year-old Saka throughout the tournament, saying it could not have been prouder of how he had represented both the club and his country.

However, the club said that its pride had quickly turned to sorrow after its player became the target of racial abuse in the wake of England’s defeat.

In a statement, the north London club said: “Bukayo has been with us since he was seven and the whole club couldn’t have been prouder to see him represent England throughout the tournament.

“Last night we witnessed the leadership and character we’ve always known and loved in Bukayo. However, this feeling of pride quickly turned to sorrow at the racist comments our young player was subjected to on his social media platforms after the final whistle.

“Once again, we are sad to have to say we condemn the racism of a number of black players. This cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act to ensure this disgusting abuse to which our players are subjected on a daily basis stops now.

“We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue but sadly there is only so much we can do.

“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”

Calls for tougher legislation

The Football Association (FA) released a statement condemning the “disgusting behaviour” and has called on the government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation to prevent such abuse.

It said the those sending abusive messages are “not welcome in following the team”, adding that it will be doing all it can to support the players affected and urged that those responsible should face “the toughest punishments possible”.

In a statement, the FA said: “We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the racist abuse as “appalling” and said the team deserve to be hailed as “heroes”, not subjected to hatred online.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would back the police to hold those responsible accountable, while Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden demanded that social media companies “up their game” to address the issue.

Mr Dowden warned that severe financial penalties will be enforced under the new Online Safety Bill if social media platforms fail to do more to tackle the issue.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “I share the anger at appalling racist abuse of our heroic players.

“Social media companies need to up their game in addressing it and, if they fail to, our new Online Safety Bill will hold them to account with fines of up to 10 per cent of global revenue.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has said it removed comments and accounts from Instagram that directed abuse at England’s players on Sunday night, and will continue to take action against users who break its rules.

The company said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and has encouraged people to use the tools it offers to report and block abuse.

A company spokesperson said: ““In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs.

“No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.”