England striker Marcus Rashford fears football’s struggle with racism is “going backwards rather than forwards”.
Manchester United star Rashford is one of a host of top players to have suffered abuse this season after missing a penalty in a defeat against Crystal Palace.
Rashford’s former United team-mate Romelu Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants while playing for Inter Milan at Cagliari last weekend, while his current United colleague Paul Pogba was attacked on social media.
Chelsea duo Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma also endured racial taunts on platforms such as Twitter and Rashford doesn’t believe enough is being done to eradicate the problem.
“It’s obviously disappointing. It seems to me like things have been going backwards rather than forwards,” he told reporters on Friday.
“You know, it’s tough, but like you’ve been seeing all around the world, people have been standing together and I think in this moment that’s all we can do. We have to rely on the campaigns and stuff like that to deal with the situation because our voice only has so much power.”
Rashford took part in the Professional Footballers’ Association’s 24-hour boycott of social media platforms back in May.
Twitter says it has “taken action” on “more than 700 examples of hateful conduct” in the past two weeks. The company has also met “directly affected” clubs, the PFA and anti-racism campaigners Kick it Out in an attempt to “tackle the issue collectively”.
But Rashford, speaking ahead of England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria on Saturday, insisted the authorities must take stronger action because nothing has changed despite so many high-profile incidents.
‘Nip it in the bud’
“To be honest, I’ve always said that the more we speak about it, it doesn’t have much of an impact,” Rashford said.
“We’ve tried. There’s been examples everywhere where people have spoken out and I wouldn’t say they’ve been ignored, but nothing has really changed. So, just to see it spike in the last couple of months, it’s been unbelievable, so we want to just nip it in the bud while it’s happening.”
Rashford, 21, did not see the comments aimed at him on social media after his penalty miss, but the lack of control and protection from platforms such as Twitter has not surprised him.
“Obviously, social media is a big problem because of that,” Rashford said when it was put to him that the medium feels like a free for all. “For me, it is too easy to do what you like on the internet and any of us now can go on and create accounts and write what we want under anyone’s post and no one would ever know.
“It’s easier to sort of figure it out, you know, if you have to show identification to create an account, that means everybody can only have one account. I know, for me, there’s hundreds of thousands of people that use my name on social media, and they can write what they like - so I think obviously a lot of the racism has been coming from social media as well.”
Several England players were targeted during March’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro and winger Jadon Sancho admitted recently it could stop him loving football. “To be honest, I think that people will start to come off the platforms and if it is doing more bad than good, I don’t think there’s a reason to have the channels,” Rashford added.