Bukayo Saka says he won’t let negativity “break” him after racist abuse

English soccer player Bukayo Saka has broken his silence days after enduring racist abuse online following his team’s Euro championship loss to Italy on Sunday. The 19-year-old Arsenal star said in a social media post Thursday that he won’t let negativity “break” him. 

Saka along with teammates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who are all Black, were targeted with racist insults after missing penalty kicks. In his first public remarks since then, Saka vowed to return stronger to the pitch. 

“I was hurting so much and I felt like I’d let you all and my England family down, but I can promise you this.. I will not let that moment or the negativity that I’ve received this week break me,” he wrote. 

Saka also called out social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for failing to protect people from hate speech.  

“I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that me Marcus and Jadon have received this week,” he said. “I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

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Bukayo Saka of England is consoled by teammates and Gareth Southgate, the head coach / manager of England, after missing the decisive penalty during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.  / Getty Images

“There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football or in any area of society and to the majority of people coming together to call out the people sending these messages, by taking action and reporting these comments to the police and by driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win,” he added. 

Four people have been arrested as part of a hate crime investigation into racist abuse directed at members of the England national soccer team, British police said. The investigation is still ongoing, and dozens more reports of abuse are being reviewed.

British government ministers have been criticized for not condemning racist abuse against soccer players early enough, or supporting their fight against it. Throughout the European Championship tournament, England players had been taking a knee at the start of matches to protest racial inequality, and were sometimes booed by spectators in the stands. 

The players also received an outpouring of support. When a mural dedicated to Rashford – who has campaigned to end food poverty in Britain – was vandalized with racist graffiti,  fans left positive messages and offerings on it instead.

 Saka was also grateful to those who stepped up by sending “heartfelt” letters and well wishes to him and his family. 

“This is what football should be about. Passion, people of all races, genders, religions and backgrounds coming together with one shared joy of the rollercoaster of football,” he wrote.