At least four people have been arrested for online racist abuse targeted at three England national team players following missed penalty kicks in the Euro 2020 final, British police said Thursday via Reuters.
The UK Football Policing Unit is underway on a hate crime investigation and said it's working through "a significant number" of reports of abuse. Police added that "dozens of data applications have been submitted to tech firms," via Reuters. The BBC police reported a fifth person was arrested later Thursday.
The racist abuse was aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, all of whom are Black, after they missed penalty kicks in a shootout against Italy at Wembley Stadium in London. Italy won the Euro 2020 title with a 3-2 victory.
Police work with social media platforms
It came on social media sites Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. A mural of Rashford was also defaced in the hours after the loss, though the next day fans showed up to post inspiring messages and paper hearts. Fans also painted a mural of the three with crowns at Trafford Park in Manchester.
"We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress enquiries," Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the officer responsible for leading Britain's policing response on soccer issues, said via Reuters.
"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 said there were 897 incidents and 264 arrests related to the match in the 24 hours after it was played, via Reuters. It is a large jump from tournaments held in 2016 and 2018. Ahead of the final, fans stormed the gates, overwhelmed security personnel and entered Wembley Stadium early.
Instagram apologizes for mistake
Racist abuse in soccer has been an issue for years now and social media properties have vowed at different points to do better. All three of the big platforms said they were committed to removing the abuse after the Euro 2020 final, but users noted that they reported slurs and emojis, such as the monkey, that were not removed.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said in a tweet that technology meant to prioritize reports of abuse was "mistakenly marking some of these as benign comments, which they are absolutely not." He said the issues has been addressed.
Fans guilty of racist abuse face soccer ban
Those around the United Kingdom have taken a strong stance against those making racist remarks on platforms in the days since. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday the government plans to ban anyone found guilty of online abuse fro soccer matches.
"What we are doing is taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning regime is changed so that if you are guilty of racist abuse online on football, then you will not be going to the match," Johnson said during his weekly prime minister's questions session, via CBC Sports. "No ifs, no buts, no exemptions, no excuses."
He has been under fire and accused of hypocrisy, as have others, for not condemning fans when they booed players who took a knee ahead of matches. The English players did so to highlight issues of racism.
FA condemns racist abuse
In the hours after the match, and while racist abuse was at its peak following penalty kicks, the FA — English soccer's governing body — released a statement condemning it.
"We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team," the organization said in a statement.
"We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible."
It also called out social media platforms to do more in ending such discrimination that has been rampant in international soccer.
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