Sunderland AFC and club legend Gary Bennett slam vile racism after England's Euro 2020 penalties loss

Sunderland AFC and club legend Gary Bennett have blasted the sickening racist abuse of some England players after the national side lost the final of Euro 2020 to Italy on penalties.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 5:32 pm

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka who is still a teenager, were all targeted by abusive posts after missing Wembley spot kicks in the heart-breaking shoot-out.

England manager Gareth Southgate described the abuse as “unforgivable”, while others to condemn the abuse included the FA, Prince William and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a tweet accompanied by a picture of the England side as they stood together watching the penalties, SAFC said: “We stand with England and strongly condemn the abhorrent online racism aimed at some players following last night’s (July 11) game.

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“As a group and as individuals, this group has consistently displayed leadership, character and class on and off the pitch. We are proud of them all.”

Gary Bennett played for Sunderland between 1984 and 1995 and was club captain. He is now head coach for North-East-based Show Racism the Red Card, the UK’s largest anti-racism educational charity.

He said that much more needs to be done, despite decades of trying, and that social media giants have got to do much more. But he isn’t surprised at the latest racism story to blight football.

He said: “It’s way out of order. This is something we’ve been talking about for years and years. It’s 2021 now and we’re still talking about racism; not just in football, but society generally.

England manager Gareth Southgate consoles a distraught Bukayo Saka after the teenager's penalty miss at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

“For some people it's not about the colour of the shirt, but the colour of the skin.

“Before the penalties it was fantastic. It brought the nation together. Then something goes wrong and they concentrate on the colour of their skin. Social media have got to do more. It’s within their control and they’ve got to be held responsible too.”

Twitter said that in the hours following the final it had removed more than 1,000 posts which violated its policy, and had also moved quickly to permanently suspend a number of accounts.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and has encouraged people to use the tools it offers to block abuse.

Former Sunderland captain Gary Bennett was himself a victim of racist abuse during his playing days. Picture by Stu Norton.

Mr Bennett does not think the problem will disappear any time soon, adding: “It’s not something I’m surprised by. Will it happen again? Of course it will.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media."

However, Show Racism the Red Card has criticised Mr Johnson for not speaking out against fans who booed players for taking the knee during Euro 2020.

They said: “The Prime Minister has condemned the racist abuse, but refused to condemn those who booed players for taking the knee throughout the tournament.

Marcus Rashford was victim of vile racist abuse on social media after his penalty miss for England.

“This is exactly why they take the knee.

“We need a clear message. We need more than words. We need our government to hold social media companies to account. Those responsible need to be identified and punished.”

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England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Jadon Sancho after his Euro final penalty miss. Former Sunderland star Jordan Henderson, left, looks on.