I’m seeing in the news today articles about Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho & Bukayo Saka receiving racial abuse because they missed penalties in the final of Euro 2021 against Italy.
There isn’t a single word that can adequately summarise how I feel about this; sad, incensed, despondent, embarrassed and nauseous go some way to covering what I am feeling right now.
Throughout the competition, every member of the England squad took the knee before the commencement of the matches, a symbol that has become synonymous with the fight for racial equality. This act has been widely accepted and praised by a large percentage of the country, but still, there are some who commit these diabolical, hateful, outrageous acts of abuse and racism.
These people make me feel sick, they make me feel ashamed of the country I was born and grew up in. I appreciate this is not just an issue in England but I expect more from our country, more from the men and women who call themselves English.
I’ve also seen people on Twitter commenting, and I paraphrase, that Marcus Rashford campaigns for free speech but only wants it when he’s not getting abuse.
The insanity of that statement is just simply beyond words, free speech is something he has campaigned for and is something that we should be, and are, all entitled to. What free speech is NOT, is carte blanche to abuse, racially denigrate, slander or numerous other things that the law dictates is illegal.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals.”
I wholly and utterly condemn the acts of racism and abuse that these players are facing. Anyone who commits such an act should face the full force of the law.
If you are reading this and you are one of those who have committed these atrocious acts, take a long hard look in a mirror and ask yourself if you are proud of what you have done, if you are a good role model for the young people of this country and if what you did should be acceptable behaviour in any society anywhere in the world (hint, the answer to all of them is NO!)