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A mural honoring England men's national soccer team player Marcus Rashford was vandalized on Sunday night while he and two teammates were subjected to racist abuse on social media following England's loss in the Euro 2020 final.
Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, all of whom are Black, missed penalty kicks for England and were immediately met with racist abuse that included monkey emojis, slurs and taunts to leave the country. England lost to Italy on penalty, 3-2, when the sides were knotted at 1 through extra time.
❤ Marcus Rashford's mural in Manchester was vandalised last night, however supporters have come together to cover up the vandalism and spread positive messages.
The real #mufc community 🥺 pic.twitter.com/ilf4RHoZYS
— UtdDistrict (@UtdDistrict) July 12, 2021
Greater Manchester Police said they are investigating after receiving reports of "racially aggravated damage" overnight, per the BBC.
"Hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city," police chief superintendent Paul Savill told the BBC.
Rashford mural for work on childhood hunger vandalized
The mural of Rashford is on the side of a building in Withington, Manchester, at a site called Withington Walls, a community street art project co-founded by Ed Wellard. It was painted by street artist Akse, who based it off a photograph by Daniel Cheetham, and was commissioned for the star's work in tackling childhood food poverty.
Wellard woke up Monday morning to news that the mural had been defaced. Via the BBC:
"I've come out to fix what I could immediately and cover up what I couldn't and hopefully we will get the artist out to come and fix it," he said.
"We dared to dream yesterday and our hopes were dashed but to wake up to this is more depressing. Racism seems to be more and more prevalent."
The art is profile of his head and shoulders in the middle of the type, "Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose." It's a quote by Rashford's mother.
Wellard used black coverings to tape over the jawline, neck and upper chest area where people defaced the profile, per the BBC.
Vandalized mural covered up with positive messages
Those coverings have since been taken over by positive messages written on paper, many of which are in the shapes of red hearts. Some are simple, such as "role model," "wonderful human" and "strong and admired."
Others display messages of inspiration, like "You stepped up. You always step up. Hero!"
We're all behind you, @MarcusRashford.
As a player. As a person. As an inspiration to our club and our supporters. As a representation of hope that there is plenty more good than bad in the world ❤️#MUFC #ManUtd #Rashford pic.twitter.com/qPRxrKQXEz
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 12, 2021
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham addressed the act at a press briefing and in a tweet emphasizing it on Monday.
"This was a despicable, shameful act that will be utterly condemned by 99.9% of people in Greater Manchester," he wrote in the tweet.
"We could not be more proud of Marcus Rashford and his role in taking our country to its first major final in 55 years."
Rashford addresses mural, messages
Rashford took to Twitter late Monday to apologize for the missed kick and thank everyone for the positive messages he received on Monday.
"I don't even know where to start and I don't even know how to put into words how I'm feeling at this exact time. 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. A penalty was all I'd been asked to contribute for the team. I can score penalties in my sleep so why not that one? It's been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there's probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. 1 penalty. History.
"All I can say is sorry. I wish it had of [sic] gone differently Whilst I continue to say sorry I want to shoutout my teammates. This summer has been one of the best camps I've experienced and you've all played a role in that. A brotherhood has been built that is unbreakable. Your success is my success. Your failures are mine.
"I've grown into a sport where I expect to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch. I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from. I've felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands. I dreamt of days like this.
"The messages I received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withingham 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."
In a follow-up Tweet he shared handwritten messages from children urging him not to be sad and telling him how much of a role model he is for them.
FA calls out social media abuse
The FA, English soccer's governing body, released a statement condemning the abuse on Sunday night.
"We could not be cleared that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team," the FA wrote in part.
It also called out social media companies and urged them to take responsibility.
"Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse."
Racist abuse toward soccer players in Europe is nothing new and U.S. soccer players have found themselves as similar targets stateside. Rashford has been open about the racism he receives on social platforms. He refused to stoop to the racists' level in January, following a 0-0 draw while with Manchester United, and did not post screenshots of the messages. The racism toward Rashford made headlines again after a dramatic penalty shootout with England in the Europa League final.
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