UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel are being accused of hypocrisy after denouncing racist abuse of England footballers following their EURO defeat to Italy but also earlier denouncing the national team kneeling in protest of racism.

England footballer Tyrone Mings accused Patel of feigning outrage at the racist abuse levelled against fellow black teammates Marcus Rashford, Buyako Saka, and Jadon Sancho while previously labelling the national team’s anti-racism message “gesture politics.”

“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,” Mings said on Twitter.

Mings was hitting back at a tweet by Patel saying: “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.”

Last month and at the beginning of the EURO tournament, Patel and Johnson had criticized the England national team for taking the knee before the start of each match, arguing that they do not support “that type of gesture politics.” The prime minister and home secretary also failed to denounce the fans who booed the anti-racist act, simply saying “that’s a choice for them, quite frankly.”

‘License to abuse’

Italy defeated England in Sunday’s EURO championship final after both sides progressed to the penalty shootouts. Rashford, Sancho, and Saka missed their penalties, which resulted in Italy being capturing the crown. Following the game, however, the three black players were subjected to online racial abuse, and a mural of Rashford in his hometown of Manchester was defaced with racist graffiti.

“Waking up today and seeing my brothers being racially abused for being brave enough to put themselves in a position to help this country is something that sickens, but doesn’t surprise me. We have literally made history. We’ve gone where no one else has gone. Take that in,” Mings said in a statement following the match.

The opposition Labour party also blasted Johnson and Patel for giving racists and bigots a “license” to carry out their abuse after refusing to denounce earlier acts of abuse towards the national team. Labour head Keir Starmer said the prime minister’s comments came too late and “ring hollow.”

“I’m afraid the prime minister has failed the test of leadership because whatever he says today about racism, he had a simple choice at the beginning of this tournament in relation to the booing of those that were taking the knee and they made it clear why they were taking the knee. The prime minister failed to call that out and the actions and inactions of leaders have consequences,” Starmer said in a statement.

“Let me be clear. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary gave license to the racists who booed the England players and are now racially abusing England players. @BorisJohnson and @pritipatel are like arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on. Total hypocrites,” Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Twitter.

London Metropolitan police have launched an investigation into the online abuse as well as the racist defacing of the Rashford mural, saying such actions “will not be tolerated.” The UK Football Policing Unit have also launched an inquiry into the abuse.

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