Priti Patel under fire from England player after labelling anti-racism stand as ‘gesture politics’

Tyrone Mings hit out at the Home Secretary for labelling the team's anti-racism message as 'gesture politics' (Photo: Getty Images)

England footballer Tyrone Mings has hit out at the Home Secretary for condemning the racist abuse faced by his teammates, after she previously said players taking the knee was “gesture politics”.

Priti Patel was one of many politicians and public figures to slam the racial abuse directed at England players on social media following their defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday (11 July).

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bykayo Saka were all faced with a swathe of racist abuse on social media after missing penalties in the shoot-out on Sunday.

England manager Gareth Southgate described the racist online abuse directed at some of his players as “unforgivable”.

Facebook, which also owns popular social media platform Instagram, has said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and encouraged people to use the tools it offers to report and block abuse.

'Stoking the fire'

The Home Secretary was among many to criticise the abuse as “vile”, saying she backs the police to hold those responsible to account.

In a post on Twitter, Priti Patel said: “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.”

England defender Mings hit back at her comment after she previously refused to criticise fans who booed the team for taking the knee in protest against racial abuse.

In a response posted to her Tweet, Mings claimed Ms Patel had “stoke(d) the fire” after previously labelling the team’s anti-racism message as “gesture politics”.

The England defender wrote: “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.”

Ms Patel declined to comment on his tweet.

Conservative Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer, a former defence minister, said of Mings’ tweet: “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.”

Priti Patel was accused of stoking the fire with her comments (Photo: Getty Images)

'Gesture politics'

Last month, Ms Patel labelled players taking the knee as “gesture politics” after the England team faced jeers from a minority of fans at their first match of Euro 2020.

The act is a symbol of anti-racism solidarity which first gained attention in 2016 in American football as players took the knee in protest against police brutality and racism in the US.

Since then, the act has spread much wider and has been adopted by footballers in the UK to demonstrate that racism should not be tolerated in the sport.

When asked about the act, Ms Patel previously told broadcaster GB News: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well.”

And when asked if it was right that England fans booed the national team over their decision to take the knee before a match, she responded: “That’s a choice for them, quite frankly”.

Dame Heather Rabbatts, the first person from an ethnic minority to serve on the board of the Football Association, has called on the public to back the players.

She told the BBC: “Ultimately it is for the overwhelming majority of the fans who don’t subscribe to those (racist) views to stand up and make their voice heard: This is our club and we will not stand for this abuse of our players.

“And the voice of the many needs to drown out the voice of the few.”