Ironically, the mural in Withington, Manchester, was first painted along with the words, “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose.” It had first been created in tribute to Rashford’s campaign for free school meals for disadvantaged children. The work was based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham and painted by street artist Akse in collaboration with Withington Walls, a community street art project.
However, after England lost the match on penalties, a vitriolic racist campaign immediately flared up. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who each missed their penalty shots, found their Instagram accounts flooded with racist messages and death threats.
That behaviour wasn’t confined to social media as shortly after the match’s conclusion, the mural was defaced with racist language. However, there was a small glimmer of hope for humanity in England this morning (July 12), when fans in the local area came together to cover up the graffiti, first with plain black sheets and then with messages of love and compassion for the striker. The positive messages include “role model”, “wonderful human” and “hero” written on a red heart.
Greater Manchester Police said an investigation had been launched after the force received a report of racially aggravated damage at 02:50 BST. Appealing for information, Ch. Supt Paul Savill said: “Hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city.”
Ed Wellard, who co-founded Withington Walls, spoke about how dismayed he was to learn the mural had been defaced: “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.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the abuse of players as “appalling,” adding the team deserved “to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media” and that “those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.” However, many are taking exception to his comments after a litany of examples of his own racist language were dug up on social media.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time Rashford or any of his Black colleagues have been on the receiving end of racist abuse. In May, Rashford spoke out about receiving racist abuse following Manchester United’s Europa League final defeat to Villarreal (also on penalties), saying he had counted “at least 70 racial slurs on my social accounts”.
Rashford took to Twitter to share his thoughts about everything that’s happened in the last 48 hours. He starts with the words, “I don’t know where to start, and I don’t even know how to put into words how I’m feeling at this exact time.” You can read his notes in full below: