Southampton have condemned the “abhorrent” racist abuse aimed at midfielder Alex Jankewitz on social media after Tuesday’s loss to Manchester United and are liaising with police.
The 19-year-old was sent off inside 90 seconds of his first start on Tuesday evening, with Saints going on to fall to a record-equalling 9-0 Premier League defeat by Manchester United.
Jankewitz subsequently became the latest in a string of players to be subjected to sickening online abuse, with monkey emojis and racist terms directed at him on social media.
A statement from the club read: “Southampton Football Club can confirm that it has identified a number of posts on social media directing racial abuse at our 19-year-old midfielder Alex Jankewitz, following last night’s result at Manchester United.
#SaintsFC has identified a number of social media posts directing racist abuse at one of the club's players, and is reporting these to police.
Abuse of any form will never be tolerated at our club.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) February 3, 2021
“Abuse of any form will never be tolerated at Southampton.
“Our club prides itself on its inclusive nature, and supporters who stoop to such abhorrent and archaic standards are not welcome as Southampton supporters, or anywhere else within football.
“The club will continue to fight every day to remove such people from our sport and our community in order to protect our players, our staff, Southampton fans and football supporters around the world who recognise and celebrate the diversity that makes football special.
“The club is passing on all abusive messages to Hampshire Police and hope they are able to permanently remove those individuals from our football community.”
Hampshire Police said in a statement to Hampshire Live that they “are aware of reports of racist abuse on social media directed at a Southampton Football Club player”.
The statement added: “We are liaising with the club and enquiries into this matter are ongoing.”
Online abuse towards footballers has been in the spotlight over the last week, with West Midlands Police arresting a 49-year-old man on suspicion of racially abusing West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers.
Chelsea defender Reece James shared vile messages he had been sent, while racist terms and monkey emojis were put on recent Instagram posts by United duo Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe.
Humanity and social media at its worst. Yes I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am. No one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different. So sorry if you were looking for a strong reaction, you’re just simply not going to get it here 👊🏾
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 30, 2021
United team-mate Marcus Rashford has also been abused, prompting an investigation from Greater Manchester Police.
Such incidents place further scrutiny on social media platforms as the UK Government plans to introduce new laws on online abuse in 2021.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says the Government’s Online Harms Bill will “crack down on online abuse” and tweeted: “Thank you so much to all the players who have called out the racial abuse they’ve received online.
“Their experiences will be at the top of my mind as we take this Bill through parliament. Enough is enough: our new laws will crack down on online abuse.”
Thank you so much to all the players who have called out the racial abuse they’ve received online
Their experiences will be at the top of my mind as we take this Bill through parliament
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) February 1, 2021
Speaking to the BBC about measures that could be taken against social media companies, Dowden said: “I certainly am prepared to get tough.
“If you fail to enforce your own terms and conditions, stand up to your duty of care, then we will impose fines and we’ll take the power to impose very large fines – indeed up to 10 per cent of global turnover.
“For some of these big tech firms that’s running to billions of pounds.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal great Ian Wright has said he was “disappointed” that an Irish teenager who admitted racially abusing him escaped a criminal conviction.
Patrick O’Brien, of Sycamore Court, Ashleigh Downs, Tralee, Co Kerry abused the former England striker in private messages on Instagram last May after he lost a FIFA game on PlayStation.
O’Brien was handed probation at a sentencing hearing at Tralee District Court on Wednesday.
The 18-year-old pleaded guilty to harassing Wright on May 11, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person Act 1997, and sending a message by phone that was grossly offensive, obscene and menacing.
In a statement on Twitter, Wright said: “This case was never about revenge, it was always about consequences for acts of racism.
“My forgiveness of this young man was for my own deeply personal need and desire to move forward without further anguish.
“I am a 57-year-old man that has experienced racism throughout my life.
One day we'll speak about how difficult these platforms make it for the Police to follow up and get the information they need to move forward. Continue to report! Continue to highlight it! A luta continua ✊🏿 #NoRoomForRacism https://t.co/YF51SPwwj3
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) January 31, 2021
“I wasn’t expecting my forgiveness to be an invitation to lighten a sentence.
“Seeing this judgment, I can only wonder what deterrent there is for anyone else who spouts this kind of vile racist abuse.
“An individual wished death upon me because of my skin colour. No judge’s claims of ‘naivety’ or ‘immaturity’ will ever be acceptable to us.
“The supposed immaturity and naivety of our attackers is never any comfort. So yeah I am disappointed. I’m tired. We are all tired.”