England Soccer Star Bukayo Saka Urges Social Media Giants to Act in Wake of Racist Comments He's Received

Getty Images

Bukayo Saka's statement comes after England lost the Euro2020 tournament to Italy on penalties Sunday inside London's Wembley Stadium. After the loss, Saka and fellow Black teammates received an onslaught of racist criticisms.

England soccer star Bukayo Saka has urged Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to crack down on racist abuse online following comments he and his Black Three Lions teammates, Marcus Rashford and Jadan Sancho, received after the team’s loss to Italy in the Euro2020 finals at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Saka, 19, who is a forward for both England and Arsenal, posted a statement Thursday on Instagram calling on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to combat the abuse he and his teammates have gotten following their missed penalty kicks, which led to Italy winning the cup.

“For Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, social media platforms, children and adults must receive the hatred and harmful messages I, Marcus, and Jaydon received this week,” Saka wrote. “I quickly learned what kind of hatred I was about to receive. It’s a sad reality that your powerful platform isn’t doing enough to stop these messages.”

Saka said it was an honor to play for England and represent his country and apologized for the outcome, and said the prejudice he and others have received online needs to stop.

“There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football or in any area of society and to the majority of people coming together to call out the people sending these messages, by taking action and reporting these comments to the police and by driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win,” he added.

Of the three players who were taunted and abused, Sancho was the first to call on tech companies to do better.

In the wake of the abuse, Rashford and his soon-to-be Manchester United teammate Sancho, also released statements expressing their sadness at the abuse they received.

“I’m not going pretend that I didn’t see the racial abuse that me and my brothers Marcus and Bukayo received after the game, but sadly it's nothing new. As a society we need to do better, and hold these people accountable,” Sancho wrote on Instagram. “Hate will never win. To all the young people who have received similar abuse, hold your heads up high and keep chasing the dream.”

“I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from," Rashford said. "I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands.”

“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 year old, Black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing els,e I have that,” he added.

The Football Association of England, which is headed by Prince William, also released a statement saying that: “Social media companies need to step up, take accountability and action to ban abusers from the platform, collect evidence that could lead to prosecution, and the platform. Need to help free this kind of abominable abuse. “

Following Sunday’s match and a flood of racial abuse the three players received on Instagram, the company said that the comments were “mistakenly” allowed because they were within the guidelines instead of brought to the attention of human moderators, according to the BBC. That issue had now been fixed, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told the BBC.

“We have technology to try and prioritize reports and we were mistakenly marking some of these as benign comments, which they are absolutely not,” Mosseri said. “The issue has since been addressed. Reports on these types of comments should [now] be reviewed properly.”

Police said they have arrested four people who made comments online directed toward the three English athletes, ESPN reported.

"We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress enquiries," said Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the officer responsible for leading Britain's policing response on soccer issues. "If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions."

Police also said there were 897 football-related incidents and 264 arrests in the 24 hours around the final.

Among those showing support for Saka, Rashford and Sancho was "Ted Lasso" star Jason Sudeikis, who wore a shirt with their names on it during a premiere event for the acclaimed Apple+ show on Thursday.

Facebook and Twitter issued statements following Sunday’s match saying offensive posts had been removed and internal investigations were underway to identify the posters.

"In the past 24 hours, through a combination of machine learning based automation and human review, we have swiftly removed over 1000 Tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules," a Twitter statement said.

Members of the British team had taken a knee before games at the Euros to signal support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The young, ethnically diverse squad had gained ecstatic support in England, where the team entered the championship's first major final in 55 years.

Seven of the team's starting players has a parent or grandparent who was born overseas, according to Britain's Migration Museum. The parents of Saka, 19, are from Nigeria, and the parents of Sancho, 21, are from Trinidad and Tobago. Rashford, 23, has grandparents from Saint Kitts.

Still, there were some boos heard when the players dropped to one knee before the matches.

"When we get racist abuse after a football match at the end of a tournament, I expect it," former England player Gary Neville told Sky News Monday. "I knew as soon as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed last night, I knew we would be waking up this morning to stories of racist abuse," he said.

Related Stories