Manchester United have condemned the “mindless idiots” who racially abused Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial on social media and have called for stronger measures “to prevent this kind of behaviour”.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men fell to a shock 2-1 loss to the Premier League’s bottom side Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
That defeat sparked a torrent of online abuse aimed at United’s players, including racist abuse aimed at defender Tuanzebe, who inadvertently turned home Oliver Burke’s winner, and forward Martial.
Racist terms and monkey emojis were put on Instagram comments of the pair’s most recent posts.
United said in a club statement: “Everyone at Manchester United is disgusted by the racial abuse received by players via social media after last night’s game.
“We utterly condemn it and it is encouraging to see other fans condemn this on social media also.
“Manchester United has zero tolerance of any form of racism or discrimination and a long-standing commitment to campaigning against it through our All Red All Equal initiative.
“Identifying these anonymous mindless idiots remains problematic. We urge social media platforms and regulatory authorities to strengthen measures to prevent this kind of behaviour.”
Tuanzebe shared the club’s ‘United Against Racism’ post via Instagram Stories as he posted on social media for the first time since the sickening night of abuse.
Later on Thursday he posted a video compilation of him playing for United in various matches with the caption: “My RACE My RELIGION My COLOUR = FOOTBALL #NoToRacism #UnitedAgainstRacism”.
Marcus Rashford, Fred and Brandon Williams were among the United players to post on social media in support of their team-mates, with midfielder Scott McTominay saying he was “disgusted”.
United captain Harry Maguire echoed those sentiments.
“Yeah, it’s disgusting,” the defender said. “I woke up this morning, I was devastated, I was hurt with the result and then I read what’s happened on social media to my team-mates. It made me feel sick.
“There’s no place for it. They’re definitely no fans of this club, we don’t associate with them. We don’t want their support, so no, it’s so disappointing.
“It hurts that it’s still going on in this day and age. The club have acted, but for sure something needs to change.”
Ex-United striker Dwight Yorke said “the people making these remarks must be punished according to their crimes”, with former team-mate Andy Cole saying stricter sanctions are needed against these “total idiots”.
“It’s not incredible for me because it is what it is. It’s been slowly creeping itself back into society,” the latter said.
“I think we’ve had a problem the majority of the time but it was always swept under the carpet because it makes it easier if it’s swept under the carpet and we make out things are perfect.
“They’re far from perfect so, when things like his continue to rear its head, it’s for people at the highest level to start making these decisions.
“Those are, like I’ve said before, the people on social media platforms, who actually run them, can do a hell of a lot more, instead of saying we can’t do it.
“Yes, you can. The same way you let people join these platforms, you can take these people off these platforms.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association said the racist abuse aimed at Tuanzebe and Martial was “disgraceful and unacceptable”, adding discriminatory online abuse of players “cannot be allowed to continue”.
The PFA said, where possible, it “advises any player who receives online abuse to press charges” as “we want perpetrators to be held accountable for their online behaviour”.
Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, labelled the abuse “completely unacceptable”, with chair Sanjay Bhandari saying “online hate must have real-life consequences”.
Earlier this month Kick It Out convened a meeting between a range of football, media and law enforcement organisations and social media companies to discuss how to tackle online hate.
The topic of discrimination and abuse was also subject of a virtual call led by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston this week as part of the Government’s discussions on the ‘Future of Football’.
Jordan Henderson, Karen Carney, Tyrone Mings, Paul Elliott and Anton Ferdinand were among those involved in a meeting called by ministers in which they laid out the bill due to come before Parliament in 2021.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said the law “will require tech firms to take action so that what is unacceptable in the street and in stands, is unacceptable online too”.
Culture Secretary Dowden said: “To hear players talk about the level of abuse they have faced was humbling.
“Their input today has strengthened my resolve to bring in new laws to ensure there is much greater accountability from the social media platforms for dealing with such problems.
“As we shape the ‘Future of Football’ and look towards our football governance review, we must tackle issues around discrimination and lack of equality of opportunity head on. I am grateful to this group of players for sharing their experiences and expertise to help the Government’s work.”