West Midlands Police have arrested a 12-year-old boy after Crystal Palace footballer Wilfried Zaha was targeted with online racial abuse on Sunday morning.
A statement issued on Sunday afternoon read: “We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy.
“The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won’t be tolerated.”
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Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Sharing a series of screenshots online, Zaha highlighted the scale of sickening online abuse he had received prior to this afternoon’s Premier League match between Palace and Aston Villa, appearing to be from a supporter of the West Midlands side.
One post included an image of the white supremacist hate group, the Ku Klux Klan, and a message that read: ‘’You better not score tomorrow your black c*** or I’ll come to your house dressed as a ghost.’’
Crystal Palace immediately released a statement in response to the messages: “This is an absolute disgrace and should not be happening. We stand with you, Wilf, and anyone else who has to suffer such horrific abuse.”
Zaha was supported by his manager Roy Hodgson, who said that the 27-year-old had made the right decision to make the abuse public
“I think it’s important, I think it is being highlighted very much anyway with the Black Lives Matter movement, and everyone seems to be making such an effort to eradicate this type of behaviour,” Hodgson told Sky Sports.
“It is very saddening on the day of a game that a player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse.
“I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it; I don’t think it is something he should keep quiet about.
“I think it is very good that our club, Aston Villa and the Premier League are doing everything they can to find out who this despicable individual is and one can only hope that they will get identified and they will get called to account and they will pay for these actions.
“There is literally no excuse; there is no excuse at all.”
The Premier League also issued a statement to strongly condemn the abuse, and confirmed that it will utilise its recently-launched reporting system to escalate the matter.
“This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the Premier League stands alongside Wilfried Zaha in opposing this, and discrimination in any form. There is #NoRoomForRacism, anywhere.
“We will continue to support players, managers, coaches and their family members who receive serious discriminatory online abuse.
“Through our dedicated reporting system we can take immediate action on cases like this.”
As part of the investigation process, the Premier League will report the incident to Instagram, and have promised to take legal action where appropriate.
Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out tweeted: “We are extremely disappointed that Wilf Zaha has once again been the subject of targeted racial abuse.
“Those who continue to select professional sports people in this way, need to be brought to justice and face the strongest consequences #KickItOut”
Show Racism the Red Card chief executive Ged Grebby added: “Show Racism the Red Card applaud Wilfred Zaha for again calling out racism on social media.
“This racist abuse is a hate crime and needs to be investigated by the police. A criminal record and five-year ban from football awaits the culprit.”