Tories Take the Knee: Boris Johnson Announces Football Ban for ‘Racists’

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to save a shot during a warm up before a girls football match while on the campaign trail in Cheadle Hulme, northwest England on December 7, 2019. - Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote in a pre-Christmas general …
TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Britons who post racist content will be barred from attending football matches, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced amid a flurry of demands for censorship following England’s loss to Italy.

Boris Johnson’s government has pounced on the furore surrounding the abuse directed towards Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka — all of whom missed crucial penalty kicks at the end of Sunday’s match against Italy — in order to push for more censorship from big tech companies and to ban “racists” from attending football matches.

Despite reports that some 70 per cent of online racist abuse surrounding English football originates overseas, the prime minister told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the government will take “practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed”.

“So that if you are guilty of racist abuse online of footballers then you will not be going to the match. No ifs, no buts. No exemptions and no excuses,” Mr Johnson said.

The prime minister also said that he met with representatives of big tech companies on Tuesday, whom he impressed upon their duty to censor “hate” from their platforms or face heavy fines from the UK under the upcoming Online Harms Bill, which seeks to regulate the internet in Britain.

Johnson’s pronouncement came after a petition from the self-described “The Three Hijabis” Shaista Aziz, Amna Abdullatif, and Huda Jawad, which calls for the government and the Football Association (FA) to ban “all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life”.

To date, the petition has surpassed one million signatories.

So far, British police forces have arrested at least two men for alleged racist abuse directed at the football players on social media. West Mercia Police arrested a 50-year-old on Tuesday on suspicion of inciting racial hatred related to a tweet posted on Sunday. The man has since been released under investigation. While on Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police arrested a 37-year-old for offences under the Malicious Communications Act. At the time of reporting, he remains in custody for questioning.

It comes as notionally conservative media figures have bent over backwards in expressing a desire to root out the supposed hate in Britain.

On Tuesday, talkRADIO host Mike Graham — who generally self-portrays as a defender of free speech issues in the UK — called for racists not only to be prosecuted but to be “excommunicated from our society”.

Graham proposed adopting a Communist China-style social credit system for racists, saying: “Let’s make it impossible for them to have a life, no bank account, no ability to travel, no passport, no benefits, nothing.”

The nominally right-wing talk show host went on to call for an end to anonymity on the internet, backing up a petition which has demanded that social media companies require people to register their identity with their profiles.

Critics have warned that this would serve to stifle free speech further, as those in fear of being cancelled from their careers would not have an avenue to express their political beliefs online free from financial ruin. Others have noted that Mike Graham and Boris Johnson have both been accused of being racist before, begging the question as to who will determine who is or is not racist.

The recently formed ‘anti-woke’ news channel, GB News, has also prostrated itself on the subject, with presenter and former Tory PR guru Guto Harri “taking the knee” live on air on Tuesday.

Harri said that prior to the Euros, he was not in favour of the England players taking the knee before every match. However, he said, “with the benefit of hindsight, I may have underestimated how close to the surface the racism still is. I actually get it,” before standing and dropping down to perform the BLM-inspired kneel.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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