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England player abused by racists slams social media giants

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

England's Bukayo Saka, center, is comforted after he missed to score the last penalty during the penalty shootout of the Euro 2020 soccer championship final between England and Italy at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool, File)

LONDON – One of the England soccer players targeted with online racist abuse after his team’s loss in the final of the European championship condemned social media companies Thursday for doing too little to block “hateful and hurtful” messages on their platforms.

In comments directed at Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, Bukayo Saka said he didn’t want anyone else to be targeted by the kind of messages he and teammates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho received after the three Black players missed penalty kicks during the shootout that ended Sunday’s game.

“I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that (it) is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages,” the 19-year-old Saka wrote on Instagram. “There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football. …”

The U.K. Football Policing Unit is investigating potential hate crimes linked to the online abuse, and four people have already been arrested, according to a statement from the National Police Chiefs Council.

“We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress enquiries,’’ Cheshire police Chief Constable Mark Roberts, who leads soccer policing nationwide, said. “If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions.”

The hate crime investigation follows a night of widespread crime and disorder during and after Sunday’s European Football Championship match. As of Tuesday, authorities around the country had made 264 arrests linked to 897 incidents surrounding the final, the police chiefs said.