When the England national football team were defeated at penalties by Italy in the Euro 2020 finals, a dark shadow was cast across football.
Three players in particular—Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who all missed their shots—were vilified and attacked with a horrifying torrent of racist abuse. Using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, a number of people attacked the three players with racist language in the days that followed.
Several of them have already been named and shamed, but now Jonathon Best, 52, who posted a rant to Facebook, has been sentenced to 10 weeks behind bars via Willesden Magistrates’ Court. Best, a forklift driver from Feltham, West London, came to the attention of CPS when a colleague reported the 18-second video clip to both Facebook and the police after Best refused to remove the video. The clip was removed by Facebook three days later.
“While the majority of the nation took great pride in the Three Lions reaching their first international final in more than 50 years, Jonathon Best took to Facebook to Livestream a barrage of racist abuse at the three players who missed penalties during the game,” Elaine Cousins, from the CPS, said. “He used social media to publicly vilify these three young men who tried to score for England. When approached by a Facebook friend asking him to remove the grossly offensive content, Best replied: ‘It’s my profile, I can do what I want.’ There is absolutely no room in the game, nor elsewhere, for racism.”
She added: “The CPS is committed to bringing perpetrators of hate crime to justice where there is the evidence to do so. I would like to thank the individual who reported this appalling hate crime and I hope this prosecution goes some way in educating and deterring people from posting hate on social media.”
In light of Jonathon Best’s case, the CPS have announced that they’ll be meeting with the police, as well as sports organisations, to make clear what evidence is needed to authorise charges for hate-related crimes.
Elizabeth Jenkins of the CPS said: “Hate crimes such as these have a massive impact on players and their mental health. The CPS takes this kind of offending very seriously and this case shows that where offensive content is reported to the police we can successfully bring offenders to justice.”