Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed their spot kicks; all were then subjected to racist abuse. Worse, a mural in south Manchester featuring Rashford was then defaced. Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his Benidorm holiday rep Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the racism. But they in turn were condemned for their previous attempt to play both sides of the field.
Maybe listen more and smirk less
Bozo and Ms Patel had equivocated when asked to condemn those who booed when the players took the knee. Both tried to play the populist card, to cheer on the team while keeping the bigots with them. The press remained supportive, dismissing taking the knee, claiming it was a political gesture, or that the players were naive and misguided.
The reaction to the racist attacks on Rashford, Sancho and Saka, and the defacing of the Rashford mural - ordinary people backing the abused players over the boo-boys - has now been compounded by their England colleague Tyrone Mings cutting through all the excuses to nail Bozo and his Home Secretary for what the former likes to call “Cakeism”.
“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens” he told Ms Patel. And there was more.
Sayeeda Warsi - a Tory - had a message for Ms Patel. “Priti - we as govt, as [Conservatives] need to think about our role in feeding this culture in our country. If we ‘whistle’ & the ‘dog’ reacts we cant be shocked if it barks & bites. It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division. Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations”.
But will her fellow Tories listen? Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has already been forced to apologise after suggesting that Rashford - who has himself apologised for missing his spot kick, but not for who he is - should have spent more time “perfecting his game” rather than “playing politics”. And former Chief Constable Peter Fahy had more bad news.
As the Guardian has reported, Fahy concluded “Politicians being ambivalent about their support, choosing to wilfully misinterpret what England players are doing means a minority will see that as tacit support. They are giving them room to operate, especially those trying to make out that [the knee] is a political issue”. Many Tories have done just that.
Former England player Gary Neville added “The prime minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism. It starts at the very top. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that I woke up to those headlines; I expected it the minute the three players missed”.
The Tories believed footballers past and present could be persuaded to keep the discussion about football. They believed wrong. Now they are reaping the whirlwind.
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