The ugliness included the defacing of a huge mural that features Rashford in Withington. The words were quickly covered, but the sentiment was unmistakable, and police in the Manchester suburb were investigating the incident, which occurred not far from where Rashford grew up.
Residents quickly covered part of the mural, a photograph by Daniel Cheetham on the side of the Coffee House Café, with messages of support. “It’s not right,” Peter Doherty, the cafe’s owner, told the BBC. “It’s not the first time this has happened, either. It takes such guts to get up and take a penalty. We need to take a look at ourselves as England fans. You’d think after the year we’ve had we’d be hugging each other, not hating each other.”
British politicians and public figures were quick to denounce the racist abuse faced by the Black players following the team’s loss Sunday.
Rashford’s penalty kick struck the goal post, and Jadon Sancho also missed before the team’s final attempt, by Bukayo Saka, was stopped, dashing England’s hopes for its first championship in 55 years. On Monday, Rashford’s statement said he had relived his kick over and over.
“I don’t even know where to start and I don’t even know how to put into words how I am feeling at this exact time,” he wrote. “I’ve had a difficult season, I think that’s been clear for everyone to see and I probably went into that final with a lack of confidence. I’ve always backed myself for a penalty, but something didn’t feel quite right.
“During the long run-up I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately the result was not what I wanted. I felt as though I had let my teammates down. I felt as if I’d let everyone down.“
He went on to say he knew that as a soccer player he “expected to read things written about myself,” but the racist reaction to the loss, quickly condemned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prince William and the Football Association, was something different.
Johnson said at a Monday evening news conference that those directing abuse should “crawl back under the rock which you emerged.” On Tuesday night, Johnson was planning to hold talks about online abuse with companies including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s office.
But there has been a backlash to the backlash.
The Johnson administration has come under fire by those who say it has aided in fueling the abuse directed at players by not doing more to condemn those booing the players taking a knee.
Broadcaster and historian David Olusoga tweeted that the Johnson government calling technology reps into Downing Street was “akin to an arsonist calling out the fire brigade.”
“They had the chance to condemn racism, four weeks ago. Instead they gave a wink to the racists and misrepresented what taking the knee means,” he said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote on Twitter that the racist abuse was “vile” and said it has “no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable.”
Responding to her tweet, England footballer Tyrone Mings said: “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.”
Conservative lawmaker Johnny Mercer, a former defense minister, responded to Mings’s tweet saying: “The painful truth is that this guy is completely right. Very uncomfortable with the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into. Do I fight it or stay silent? Modern Conservatism was always so much more to me. We must not lose our way.”
Opposition Labour politicians also have criticized the government. Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, tweeted: “Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are like arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on. Total hypocrites.”
At the start of the Euro 2020 tournament, England players took a knee to protest racial inequality, a gesture inspired by NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Johnson initially failed to condemn those booing, but later his office said the prime minister wanted to “see everybody get behind the team to cheer them on, not boo.”
Last month, in an interview with GB News, Patel was asked about players kneeling before games to protest racial injustice. She said: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well.” Asked if England fans were right to boo, she said, “That’s a choice for them, quite frankly.”
In his statement Monday, Rashford expressed appreciation for the support fans have shown. “The messages I’ve received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up.
“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old Black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that. For all the kind messages thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.”
Karla Adam contributed to this report from London.