English soccer star Marcus Rashford, who faced a deluge of racism online for missing a crucial penalty kick during England’s Euro 2020 Final loss to Italy on Sunday, responded to the hatred and thanked his supporters publicly on Monday.
Rashford is one of three Black soccer players who missed penalty kicks at the end of the match at London’s Wembley Stadium, ending England’s hopes of winning its first major soccer championship in more than 50 years. Rashford, as well as teammates Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, were all targeted with racist vitriol by waves of soccer fans online following the loss. In Manchester, a mural of Rashford was defaced shortly after England lost as well, prompting a police investigation.
On Monday, British police called the online attacks “unacceptable” and announced they’d opened investigations into “offensive and racist” social media posts directed at the players.
“I’ve grown into a sport where I expect to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch,” Rashford said in a social media post on Monday.
“I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from,” he added.
“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 year old, Black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that.”
England’s Football Association, the general manager of England’s national team and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were among several public figures and organizations to denounce the racist insults.
To those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players, I say, ‘Shame on you, and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged,’ Johnson said at a news conference Monday. As prime minister, Johnson has been accused of fueling racist sentiment at soccer games for his previous refusal to condemn fans who booed players taking public stances against racism. Johnson’s previous defense of racist fans and his Monday remarks purportedly supporting Black players inspired accusations of hypocrisy.
European soccer has been rife with anti-Black sentiment for many years, with Black players and soccer officials from across the world reporting racist experiences while playing in European stadiums and against European teams. In recent years, human rights advocates have pointed to a spate of high-profile, racist incidents at European soccer games as a sign of rising extremism in the region.