England manager Gareth Southgate believes his players have a “duty” to continue to “raise awareness and educate” – and has warned that social media users making abusive comments are on the “losing side”.
England’s build-up to Euro 2020 has been marred by boos at their two warm-up matches when players have taken a knee to highlight racial injustice.
Southgate and his squad have said they will continue to take a knee before matches throughout the summer, despite the response from a section of fans.
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And, writing an open letter to the nation in The Players' Tribune, Southgate has explained why he and his players will continue to try to make themselves heard.
He wrote: "Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their team-mates and the things that matter to them as people.
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"I have never believed that we should just stick to football. I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold. At home, I'm below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men's football team manager. I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.
"It's their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate."
Southgate also tackled the problems that players have faced on social media.
Players and teams took part in a three-day social media blackout in April which was aimed at bringing attention to online abuse, discrimination and racism.
Southgate says he will “never understand” some of the abuse that is shared but thinks “we are heading for a much more tolerant and understanding society”.
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“There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty," he said.
"I trust them and know they are mature enough to make their own decisions, to do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society.
"The last 18 months have put added pressure on everyone, I know. Venting that might have taken place while walking out of the stadium, or in the pub has been transferred online. I get that. However, there are things I will never understand.
"Why would you tag someone in on a conversation that is abusive? Why would you choose to insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin? Why?
"Unfortunately for those people that engage in that kind of behaviour, I have some bad news. You're on the losing side. It's clear to me that we are heading for a much more tolerant and understanding society, and I know our lads will be a big part of that."
England start their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia on Sunday.
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