'They are role models' - councillors' letter about racist abuse to England penalty takers

England's Bukayo Saka stands dejected after missing during the penalty shoot out following the UEFA

England's Bukayo Saka stands dejected after missing during the penalty shootout during the Euro 2020 final - Credit: PA

The torrent of racial abuse suffered by England's three penalty takers in the Euro 2020 final has again shone a light on the toxicity social media can have. Three of Norwich's councillors have now penned an open letter on the topic:

I am sure, like us, many of you went to bed on Sunday night with a mixture of sadness and immense pride in the England men’s team.

Gareth Southgate and his players acted with integrity and courage throughout the competition, both on and off the pitch.

They are role models for millions of children across the country and we are proud of them — for standing against racism and homophobia and standing for equality and inclusion. They are the best of England, the best of us.

A young, diverse squad who have real life experience of racist abuse and grinding poverty, who have chosen to use their platforms for good.

It would be easy to pull the ladder up behind them, as many others have done, but instead they strive to make sure that their communities are supported and that nobody is left behind. They have shown leadership, courage, humility and true pride in representing their country.

So why did we wake up on Monday morning to a torrent of hatred and a defaced mural of Marcus Rashford? Because three players missed penalties? Gareth Southgate himself has been in that position and was pilloried for it for years. But did anyone mention the colour of his skin? No. Why? Because he is white.

We have seen a lot of people blaming social media, but your online presence is merely an extension of your offline persona. Social media is not the cause of racism, but rather it is a platform to share it. Whilst robust legislation is needed to help stem the flow of bigotry, it would not wave a magic wand to stop it entirely.

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Racial abuse is abhorrent — it is why all of the England players rightly chose to take the knee in solidarity and have been vociferous about kicking racism out of football and society. The very fact that they were booed for their anti-racism message shows exactly why it was so important that they campaigned in the way that they did.

As a country we need to stand with them to challenge racism when we see and hear it, to report racist accounts on social media, to speak up and speak out. Zero tolerance — no ifs or buts.

Norwich has a wonderful history of welcoming people from across the world to live and work here. Our city was built on “strangers,” — weavers, merchants, dyers, milliners, lace makers, potters and printers.

In the 1600s, one-third of the city were immigrants. We would not have such a fine city without their industry and culture and we hope that this proud tradition continues, with all of our citizens feeling welcome and valued.

Councillors Karen Davis, Natasha Harpley and Emma Corlett,