Gwen Berry Rallies Behind Racially Abused England Players: 'Why Am I Not Surprised!'

Track and field athlete Gwen Berry has shared a message of support to the Black England soccer players that were racially abused following a Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.

The 32-year-old used her platform to express solidarity with the soccer players and said she was "not surprised" after learning they had been subject to horrendous abuse online.

In a tweet shared on Monday, Berry said: "Heartbreaking situation! Why am I not surprised! This hate is the reason why athletes cannot 'just be athletes.'

"We must stand against these social issues until they no longer affect our lives! Sending my love to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka and their families."

She also said in an earlier tweet, which linked to a news story about the abuse: "They only love us when it benefits them…"

Heartbreaking situation! Why am I not surprised! This hate is the reason why athletes cannot "just be athletes." We must stand against these social issues until they no longer affect our lives!Sending my love to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka and their families. https://t.co/0QY6kygV1F

— Gwen Berry OLY (@MzBerryThrows) July 12, 2021

The anti-racism activist's comments came after the England soccer players became the subjects of targeted racist abuse on social media.

Bukayo Saka, 19, was abused, along with his other teammates, after they missed penalty kicks in the final against Italy on Sunday night.

His teammates Marcus Rashford, 23, and Jadon Sancho, 21, were also abused after missing their penalty spot-kicks.

The horrendous abuse led British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to hit out at the online trolls on Twitter, where he said: "This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.

"Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves."

Johnson himself came under fire for failing to condemn England fans for booing when players took the knee against racism. Also, in a 2002 Telegraph article he said African people had "watermelon smiles."

This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.

Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 12, 2021

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Berry has continued to raise awareness of social injustice.

She has previously chosen to raise awareness by raising her fist on the podium after she took the gold at the Pan-Am Games in 2019 and got sanctioned.

This did, however, push the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to commit to not punishing athletes who raise their fists or kneel during the trials or in Tokyo.

The symbol is similar to when Black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists during the U.S. national anthem at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Most recently, Berry courted controversy when she turned away from the U.S. flag while the "Star-Spangled Banner" played.

Last month, after earning her spot on the U.S. Olympic team traveling to Tokyo, Berry turned away from the U.S. flag during the national anthem and, as the song ended, she placed a black T-shirt over her head that read, "Activist Athlete."

She also hit out at the U.S. anthem itself, saying it had references to slavery. While the first paragraph of the anthem is familiar to most, the third contains the lines "Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution... No refuge could save the hireling and slave."

Newsweek has contacted Berry for comment.

Berry and Rashford campaign against racism
Berry and Rashford campaign against racism. In this photo, Gwen Berry turned away from the U.S. flag and Marcus Rashford is seen playing for England. Patrick Smith/ Lars Baron/Getty