Kick It Out send letter to UK media over use of Saka’s picture in England defeat

The anti-discrimination group Kick It Out has sent an open letter to British media editors criticising the prominent use of Bukayo Saka’s picture by some outlets to illustrate England’s defeat by Iceland.

England slumped to the shock 1-0 defeat on Friday at Wembley in their final warm-up game before Euro 2024. Saka came on in the 65th minute for Anthony Gordon and was not on the pitch when England conceded. Images of Saka were used prominently by a number of outlets after the game or as the main online picture with the game ongoing.

Kick It Out acknowledged “a lot of work” had gone into diversifying the media industry, and that the industry had highlighted how perpetrators of discrimination have been brought to justice, but it urged the media to remember their “responsibilities to not only report on discrimination but actively combat” it.

The open letter from Kick It Out’s chief executive, Tony Burnett, said: “Many fans will have woken up on Saturday morning and questioned whether anything has changed at all …

“Heading into Euro 2024, fans are rightly asking whether the current England squad will see a repeat of what happened to Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho after the last Euros final where all three suffered terrible online abuse because of their actions on the field. It’s a question we have been asking ourselves at Kick it Out.”

Burnett said that despite the passage of the online safety bill, last season Kick It Out received more reports than ever of players being targeted online and in stadiums. He urged the media to be aware of the “long history” and wide-reaching impact of black players being a media target, saying it created an impression that players were only a “misplaced kick” from being vilified and sent a message that targeting players online was fair game.

“It also sends a message to fans from black and ethnic minority communities that they do not belong or can be abused too,” Burnett wrote. “Those points need to be considered when writing headlines or selecting images as deadlines approach. The words and pictures travel a long way, hitting harder than you might realise.”

The letter concluded by saying the media play “a crucial part in how players, fans and communities feel about themselves and their rightful place in football”.

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The Black Footballers Partnership, which recently collaborated on a song calling on all fans to unite and support England at the Euros, offered a reminder that Raheem Sterling had warned of the negative impact of media coverage six years ago. Its chief executive, Delroy Corinaldi, said: “Journalists cannot escape their role in helping bring fans together on this journey of positivity. Black footballers are playing their part – it’s time for others in powerful positions to do better.”

The Guardian

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