Ian Wright hits out at media scapegoating Black England players and warns of ‘gaslighting’

Ian Wright has hit out at the media for setting up Black players as ‘the face of defeat’  (The FA via Getty Images)
Ian Wright has hit out at the media for setting up Black players as ‘the face of defeat’ (The FA via Getty Images)

Ian Wright has called out the media for scapegoating England’s Black players and warned that they will try to gaslight the nation into believing it’s not happening.

England suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Iceland in their final Euro 2024 warm-up match at Wembley on Friday evening as a sub-par performance saw Gareth Southgate’s men head into the tournament in Germany on a low note.

Social media users then pointed out that negative media coverage of the loss and the images accompanying the articles often seemed to centre the team’s Black stars. The following day’s back pages of The Sun and The Daily Star, as well as a player ratings piece by The Telegraph and the live blog on the BBC Sport website all featured Bukayo Saka as a main picture, despite the attacker only coming off the bench in the 65th minute, long after England conceded the only goal of the game.

Ex-England international and current pundit Wright weighed in on the claims, suggesting certain players were “being set up to be the face of defeat” and urged positivity in the face of negative coverage.

Wright said on Twitter/X: “Now more than ever let’s get behind & support these young people. We can all see what’s happening & who’s being set up to be the face of defeat.

“We are going to be gas lit with explanations & justifications, but those deciding who goes on the back pages know what they’re doing. Let’s keep our energy focused on giving these players pure love & support throughout the tournament.”

F1 star Lewis Hamilton, who has been a consistently outspoken voice in the fight against racism, also appeared to back Wright’s critique by sharing to his Instagram Story a post demanding accountability from the English media.

The initial post from Versus that Hamilon reposted said: “We need to hold the English media accountable for systemically vilifying Black players. The constant scapegoating of Black players needs to stop. This endemic racial discrimination has no place in football, yet countless news outlets suggest otherwise.”

Saka was among a number of England players who were racially abused online following the Three Lions’s penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the final of the previous Euros in 2021. Within minutes of his penalty being saved in the shootout, Saka received abuse on his Instagram account, which was flooded with monkey emojis.

Police made 11 arrests following the final, with one individual sentenced to 10 weeks in prison.

Ahead of Euro 2024, England players have been reassured by police that anyone who racially abuses them online will be prosecuted. While Southgate’s squad have been made aware of all the relevant steps and tools on social media such as filters, they have also been talked through the reporting process and shown examples of how people have been prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act.

The clear message is that online abusers won’t be able to “hide behind keyboards” – even if abroad.