England defender Tyrone Mings has hit out at Home Secretary Priti Patel, after she said she was “disgusted” at the racist abuse players suffered, having said at the start of Euro 2020 that fans had a right to boo players for taking the knee.
Black players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were all subject to a torrent of racist abuse on social media after missing their penalties against Italy in the final of Euro 2020.
Downing Street has announced the prime minister will meet with social media firms on Tuesday afternoon to press the need for "urgent" action on online racist abuse.
The Aston Villa defender posted on Twitter: “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.”
Within an hour of being posted the tweet had been liked more than 200,000 times and retweeted almost 80,000 times.
His tweet was in response to Ms Patel’s post on Monday morning which read: “I am disgusted that @England players who have given so much for our country this summer have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media.
“It has no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable.”
At the start of the competition when discussing players taking the knee in a stand against racism, Ms Patel told GB News: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent.”
The home secretary also refused to condemn football fans who had booed players for taking the knee, calling it a “choice for them” after Gareth Southgate’s side faced jeers from a minority of fans at their first match of Euro 2020.
At the time Mings called out Ms Patel saying she is "one of many" who "oppose... or refuse to defend."
Labour MP Lisa Nandy has accused Mr Johnson and Ms Patel of "stoking division" in British society by refusing to condemn the booing of taking the knee.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told ITV News: "I agree with the many footballers who have come out in the past 24 hours to say that some of the blame for this lies squarely at the door of the prime minister and the home secretary."
Lisa Nandy criticises Boris Johnson and Priti Patel for 'stoking division' in society
"They don’t just give the green light to racists to do what they want to do, they also use racism and division in order to stoke division and discontent, we’ve seen it repeatedly from the prime minister," Ms Nandy said.
"Only a few years ago he [Boris Johnson] wrote an article comparing Muslim women to letter boxes and we saw hate crimes rise by 375 per cent."
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told ITV News that taking the knee was not "gesture politics" adding "if anything that justifies taking the knee, it's the reaction to the three fantastic football players that very sadly missed their penalties."
"We certainly need to work harder, there's no doubt about it"
When asked if the Conservative party had a problem on the issue, Mr Ellwood said: "No I don't but we certainly need to work harder there's no doubt about it.
"The fact that we're arguing amongst each other about either the semantics or the details, or the technical aspects of it shows that we need to think bigger picture."
A senior government minister sought to defend Ms Patel on Tuesday saying she had "repeatedly taken a stand against racism".
Health Secretary Sajid Javid did not confirm whether he would take the knee but said England football players who did had his "full respect".
"There's no government policy on taking the knee"
He said when he watched players take the knee at Euro 2020 matches he understood "how they chose that way to show solidarity with black people in our country, with people who have faced adversity.
"I think it's a perfectly acceptable way to show that solidarity and I wish more people would show respect".
When asked about Priti Patel's comments calling the act "gesture politics" he said "everyone can speak for themselves, there's no government policy on taking the knee."
The England football squad and many prominent members of the sport condemned the racist abuse their teammates have suffered.
England Captain Harry Kane told those who send abuse on social media: "You're not England fans and we don't want you."
England manager Gareth Southgate described the racist abuse as "unforgivable".
"If we 'whistle' and the 'dog' reacts we can't be shocked if it barks and bites.
"It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division. Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations"
Lord Coaker raised the subject of online abuse in the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon when he asked whether Baroness Barran, the Lords Minister for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would “call out those who dismissed taking the knee against racism as gesture politics or refused to condemn fans booing players”.Baroness Barran said: “The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) has been absolutely clear that people should feel free to show their respect and condemn racism in whatever way they choose.”The issue of combatting racism in sport has become a difficult topic for the Conservative Party.
'It’s just not what we stand for' says England manager Gareth Southgate
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in June said it was "totally wrong" to boo the England team but added: "When it comes to gestures and symbols I’m more on the side of practical action to combat racism and make life better for everybody in this country."
On Monday Mr Johnson criticised people who racially abused the England team saying: "Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves."On Monday, a Tory MP apologised after suggesting that Rashford should have spent more time "perfecting his game" than "playing politics."
In a late-night private message that was leaked to the media, Ms Elphicke said: "They lost – would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics."