9:57 AM PDT, July 12, 2021
The reaction to racist comments against three Black British soccer players was fast and furious. So, too, was the online response to Prince William joining the public chorus of condemnations.
The royal was pilloried on social media after posting on Twitter that he was “sickened” by racist abuse against three Black players who missed penalties in England’s loss to Italy in the European Championship final on Sunday.
The clap-back was immediate, with posters criticizing Prince William and other royals for not publicly supporting revelations from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry during a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey. The couple said they felt abandoned by the royal family as Markle struggled with suicidal thoughts and racist behavior from royal insiders. They also said there was royal speculation about the color of their son’s skin. Markle’s mother is Black.
By Monday, Meghan Markle was trending on Twitter.
The uproar followed Sunday’s tense match between England and Italy. After racist rants began appearing on social media against Black British players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, police said they are investigating the “offensive and racist” social media posts. Britain’s Football Association, which Prince William heads, said it was “appalled” by the “disgusting behavior,” and admonished social media companies to ensure their platforms are free from this “abhorrent” abuse.
Facebook and Twitter issued statements saying the 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 had a parent or grandparent who was born overseas, according to Britain’s Migration Museum. The parents of Saka, 19, are from Nigeria, and those 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.