Our members Rochelle Armstrong and Deone Payne-James have offered advice for anyone affected by the racist abuse aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 football final.
The three England players were targeted on social media after missing penalties in their team’s defeat to Italy on Sunday.
A mural of Rashford near where he grew up in Withington, Manchester was defaced but has since been repaired and become a focal point for people to leave messages of support and solidarity.
Gareth Southgate, the England manager, has condemned the racist abuse, as have the players’ teammates via a series of powerful messages on social media. It was also condemned by the Duke of Cambridge, who serves as the FA’s president, and politicians, while police investigations have been launched.
Impact on people
Rochelle, who runs the Peace is Power counselling service in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, said the racist abuse was bound to have an impact on people.
“What I’d say to anyone affected is know the recent behaviours and overt racist remarks say more about them than you,” she said. “At the root of racism and white supremacy is fear, guilt and shame.
“It's normal to feel a range of emotions after bearing witness to blatant hatred. Shock, disbelief, hurt and anger are common emotions.
“One could even question just how welcome they feel in Britain. The substance of one's very Britishness is called into question and this can have a significant impact on Black and other BAME populations.”
Deone added: “I’d advise anyone affected by the racism directed at the England players to acknowledge and give validation to their feelings.
“Similar to the vicarious/secondary trauma that can affect therapists, rescue workers, doctors and nurses, bearing witness to racist abuse can be traumatic, disheartening and bring up difficult feelings and experiences of racism.”
The PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) has a network of BACP counsellors in place ready to support players, including the England squad, and Rochelle says Rashford, Sancho and Saka may need professional support following their experiences.
Rochelle said: “I think the three young players will need a mental health professional to listen attentively and provide a safe space for them to explore their feelings.
“Expressions of public support and solidarity from peers and fans across the globe further serve as recognition of their experiences.
“They also highlight the different responses surrounding the aftermath of the final score to Sunday's final. While some fans express their racism, others counter it with words of encouragement and support.”
Deone, a counsellor based in south east London, said the support of friends and family will be important.
“In their personal lives, I hope the players have support from their family, friends and loved ones to build them up, love and protect them,” she said. “I imagine racism is not a new experience for these players, however, the weight of the loss and resulting public and visceral racist abuse, hatred and blame will not go unfelt.
"It’s important to recognise no-one will be more entitled to feelings of disappointment and frustration than Rashford, Sancho or Saka themselves.
“Publicly, there is, as there has been in the past, an opportunity for the FA, police, government, media, social media companies and people in positions of power and authority to take action.
“Actions might include ensuring that the perpetrators are charged with any crimes that have been committed or banned from attending matches. Social media companies also have a responsibility and opportunity to support and protect players from racist abuse and threats.
“Citizens, fans and communities can also rally, as has been seen through supportive acts, which condemn racism, racist abuse and behaviour. They can show their support through active allyship, kindness and compassionate messages of support to players that seek to counter and challenge negative and hurtful racist attacks.”
And Deone said counselling can support other people who may be affected.
“Witnessing racism is another reminder of the realities, inequality and discord of our society,” said Deone. "These attitudes are often just hidden beneath the surface and when reared – passively or overtly – can have a devastating impact, triggering feelings of past and present racism endured and worries about the future.
“It’s important we don’t underestimate the impact racism can have on us and our way of being in the world. Seeking therapy for these reasons should be seen as a positive move to help explore our, often, deeply private, internal worlds.”
It’s a message echoed by Rochelle.
“Anyone impacted negatively by these events should seek out the help of a counsellor,” she said.
“Counselling can help by providing a safe, non-judgemental, and unconditionally positive space for one to focus on their feelings.
“People can explore their thoughts, unencumbered by judgment, learning strategies for dealing with racism and racists.
“A client may want to visit a counsellor of an ethnic minority background, someone for whom a shared experience is a norm.
“With a foundation of understanding, there is more time available to explore and unpack one's experiences.
“Without that foundation, there can be increased risk of retraumatisation, especially if the counsellor minimises or dismisses the clients' feelings to avoid confronting their own discomfort with the topic.”
To find a local BACP counsellor or psychotherapist, visit our Therapist directory.
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