Using headline pics of Bukayo Saka for England defeat is NOT racism

I’ll always defend Bukayo Saka. Ever since Friday several media outlets have been questioned why out of all the English players to pick from was the 22-year-old chosen to be put on the back pages while reporting the Three Lions defeat to Iceland. Especially when the substitute only played 25 minutes at Wembley.

Only editors know why that’s the picture they chose, but many observers have hinted it’s racially motivated.

From Ian Wright, Lewis Hamilton, Kick It Out to journalist Darren Lewis, a who’s who of Sport have accused these journalists of targeting Saka based on the colour of his skin.

I thinks that’s a leap and is an accusation that shouldn’t be made without evidence.

In 2024 it feels like language is being dictated to us, certain words you can’t now use because it’s decided they suddenly mean something else. It would be sad if those reporting on the National Sport now feel obliged to select images based on anything else but Football.

Former Gunner Ian Wright posted on social media, “those deciding who goes on the back pages know what they’re doing’.

I adore Wrighty but he’s skeptical about the same industry that rightly also condemned the abuse Saka, Rashford and Sancho received at the last Euros and who proudly reported the thousands of letters of support all three had waiting for them when they got back to their clubs.

The same Saka who the public have voted twice to be Player of the Year. So, let’s make it clear the majority of his country adore the Gunner.

F1 icon Hamilton was more direct in what he published on X: ‘We need to hold the English media accountable for systemically vilifying Black players. The constant scapegoating of Black players needs to stop. This endemic racial discrimination has no place in football, yet countless news outlets suggest otherwise.”

Representing the Mirror, Mr Lewis wrote: “Just because I work in the media it doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge the concern about Bukayo Saka being used as the face of England’s defeat and poor performance”

Like when David Beckham was the face of our France 98 elimination.
Or why Southgate to this day is mocked for his Euro 96 pen?
Wayne Rooney didn’t dominate the headlines no matter what?
Lampard and Terry were not ever booed by their own fans? Something Henderson recently experienced.
There wasn’t a campaign to force Harry Maguire to be dropped.

Type in Google, France 2-1 England, Iceland 2-1 England or England 0-4 Hungary there is not one certain look, culture, religion, being targeted.

Ask Xhaka if the fans in the UK who discriminate make white players immune from having death wished on your wife or your baby getting cancer?

When I watch Football the only colour, I see is the colour of the shirt.

I of course can only speak for myself, but I have never read a newspaper or scrolled online and felt the content was being motivated by racism.

It’s one thing though to accuse a writer of being racist, it’s another to suggest that they should be held responsible for other people’s actions.

Take the following from the Kick It Out Chief Executive who claimed: “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.

I shouldn’t need to remind you that the impact of black players being targeted in the media has a long history and is felt far and wide. It sends a message that they are not welcome, that they are only a misplaced kick from being vilified, and it sends a message to online abusers that targeting players is fair game.

But it also sends a message to fans from black and ethnic minority communities that they do not belong or can be abused too. 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.”

Long term readers will know I have long stressed that English Football has an issue when it comes to grown adults thinking in the confines of their football bubble they can say and do what they want.

I have long preached for laws to have zero tolerance to those who are guilty.

If you’re in a stadium or sat behind a laptop and something as trivial as sport makes you racially abuse another human being, you need help.

These cowards make enough excuses. They don’t need people blaming a newspaper.

There are zero photos that would motivate me to racially abuse a footballer.

If we are saying that England losing a football match could trigger based on who’s face they see, then we have serious issues in the world.

If we are at a point where Sports journalists are being asked to keep Saka off the back page then that’s not the solution, it’s not protecting anyone, it’s just putting your fingers ears, not wanting to listen to the problem.

Racists are morons who need to be held accountable. How can that happen when some are trying to justify their thought process?

A man in the crowd or woman on the computer doesn’t racially abuse a player because of how a match has been covered, that’s them as a person, their sick feelings not hidden, their mask slipping. They were going to racially abuse someone no matter what was in their paper.

It’s like that era where any teen violence was blamed on computer games. People know right from wrong.

In 2024, racial abuse is against the law. There is zero law that says but it’s acceptable if an article has made you feel a certain way.

If you choose to break that law you can’t stand in front of a judge and blame it on what match rating a player got, what commentary you hear or how diverse pundits are.

I though am an educated man. Football’s biggest victory in its fight against racism this week was three men becoming the first to be jailed in Spain for racism reported by La Liga.

The convicted read out a letter of apology once they realised the consequence of their actions.

No one in that court room blamed Vinicius JR being photographed. That wouldn’t help others and wouldn’t teach anything to that next generation of supporters.

If you’re a racist you’re not influenced by what the Sun or Telegraph are submitting.

Instead of blaming others let’s echo what the FIFA president said: “Our message to people anywhere in the world who still behave in a racist way when they are dealing with football is clear: we don’t want you. These people have to be excluded, they are not part of our community and not part of football.”

That won’t be determined on which player is on the back page.


Tags England photo racism Saka


  1. If anyone is to blame for England’s stumbles it is Southgate. Although it’s way too early to write England off this Euro campaign, it’s clear that even with a golden generation of super prospects he is finding it difficult to blend them into a machine. My thinking is that England should employ a tactically astute Italian manager to get the best from. Even if England don’t win it it this time around, there is so much available talent which would make world cup success inevitable within the next six years. In the mean time leave our star boy alone and give him the space to hone his skills further.

  2. Normal, pathetic insinuations from those that are determined to highlight race as much as possible.

    Imagine never putting a black player’s picture on a negative article….if anything that’s more racist as you are treating the choice of a picture based solely on the colour of a players skin.

    1. The reason this was seen as racist is due to the fact that:

      1) Saka wasn’t on the pitch for the goal conceded yet his plastered on all headline.

      2) Saka played less than 30 mins ovetall but is still used as the face of defeat.

      Why wasn’t Stones of Ramsdale plastered all over the headlines with actual images of the goal?

      Use your common sense if you have any.

    2. why did they use Saka’s pic when he had a minimal role in the loss? why not use the pics of the high profile players that played significant minutes than Saka? Kane is the captain and Foden is the player of the year and it would have made sense if their pic was used.

  3. It is 100% racist, one paper even went as far as saying england slipped on black ice with a photo of Saka. Racism is still alive in the U.K i work in a business where i communicate with the public and atleast 3 times a week i have to walk away from conversations because they are racists. How much grief do Saka,Rashford and Sancho get for missing the penalties yet nothing about Kane missing one in open play against France. I also feel the media push players like Palmer and Foden as much greater players than Saka and the only reason they do that is because of skin colour.

    1. Don’t know mate ,
      Saka picked up a paper plane and threw it
      Think it’s a good photo
      Has mentioned Southgate , Beckham , Rooney , Maguire, Henderson have all had hard time from media as well
      And maybe Foden gets more praise because he simply has had a better season?

    2. Foden and Palmer were definitely better than Saka this past season, with Foden being significantly so.

      The moment facts upset you and then you decide to play the race card, is the moment the true lack of character and integrity is shown.

      1. @PJ It’s funny some opta stats suggest otherwise, I would like to leave that debate for some other time.

        1. Myself also

          But I keep it low cos I’m an Arsenal fan so I could be bias

          This season Foden, Palmer were to Man City & Chelsea what Saka was to Arsenal

          It’s very debatable that they had a better season than him

          Foden particularly had a stint – a period he was on top form, about 2 months

          After that he was regular

          Palmer was Chelsea savior all through
          Saka was our star boy all through

          It might be overhyped that Foden had a great season

          I actually feel he’s had a better season than this (I was super impressed with him last 2 season. This season he’s just been to Man City what Saka is to us, nothing really better than that)

          What did he do at the FA cup final, I watched a copy of matches Foden was in the game but not influencing it as much as he could

      2. Kane the captain missed a sitter, Palmer wasted to chances in that match – if anyone would be on that page it should have been them.

        Lastly what a coincidence that multiples papers running Saka photo – i wish one had one of the other players including their darling Foden/Kane….

        1. I was agreeing with you Dan until I read John’s last paragraph. One paper yes we can say it’s crying wolf but multiple?

          I think his point deserve further discussion and hearing other’s views.

    3. I think the media needs to be careful in how they put these headlines and how they use some pics, especially when it comes to English national team. This is a very sensitive issue, I believe some headlines can be very provocative with the Saka, Rashford and Sancho incident still fresh in our minds. All am saying they need to be considerate.

  4. A thought provoking article Dan.
    When I saw the picture, my first reaction was that the media was having a go at another Arsenal player for “bottling it” – nothing to do with the colour of the skin.

    But reading the article and the comments above, one has to ask why use that picture of a sub, when there were players who played the entire game?
    What motivated them to do that?

    I agree that the “race card” is used far to often, but then again, I’m a white privileged(?) male who hasn’t had to put up with racial abuse.
    So I think you and I see it quite differently to, say, Wrighty in the first instance.
    Instead of highlighting Saka, why didn’t they produce the team photo from the start of the match and question what those players had done?
    Even more to the point, why not produce a picture of the white manager?

    Enjoyed reading the article nevertheless!!

      1. I did say, Dan, that a picture of the starting eleven and / or the manager would have been a better idea.
        Sometimes a player who has had a good or bad game could well be featured, but neither scenarios placed Saka in that bracket did they?

    1. Dan, as an Afro West Indian fan of Arsenal for the past 40 years. I must say thanks for the though provoking article.
      Unfortunately, I have experienced and sadly will probably will continue to experience racist first-hand.
      I echo the sentiments of Ken1945 as it relates to this incident. Why Saka??
      If Saka’s performance was conclusively the reason they lost the game, then fine. I’m all for reporting and scrutinizing him as such. But he was not! There were several prominent starters on the team that under performed. Why not utilized their pic?
      It’s unfortunate, but athletes of color have to showcase a much higher standard of performance throughout their careers before they can receive accolades or be equated with their white counterparts. With very few exceptions. Again, something that I have first-hand knowledge of.

      Is the “Race Card” played at times? Absolutely! But in my opinion, this is an incident of legitimate racial bias concerns.
      My only hope is that he’s equally celebrated by the same media when he puts Two (2) in the back of the net and is man-of-the-match during the Euros!! 🙂

  5. Man, I am tired of these people that are always looking for anything to get themselves triggered.
    So then every other times they use white players pictures after a defeat is also racist?

    Can’t people stop trying to be victims and also making victims out of thin air? The level of softeness in the modern times is ridiculous.

    It’s cringeworthy and irritating.

  6. Anyone who is not seeing malice in the way those paper presented our star boy, is either ignorant or a racist at heart. That was wrong and need to be called so. Stop with this justification/evidence nonsense and innuendos. I am with Wrighty on this!

  7. Wrighty has been banging the race drum for years, Hamilton also loves a bit of race baiting, the pair of them are just grifters, stoking up division while pocketing a nice few quid, sad to see Arsenal legend Wrighty go down this path, bore off mate 🙄

    1. @Dave
      The British Empire was built in and is still heavily funded by racial division. Your point?

      1. @NY_Gunner Racial division in the UK is mostly being stoked by non-whites, from the utterly racist, violent, divisive black lives matter movement to the celebrity shills all pushing the same narrative. As for the British Empire being built in and still funded by racial division do you know what’s going on in Africa, the Middle East and Asia? That’s right, slavery. Not much coming out of the main stream media and it’s shills about that though as it doesn’t fit their narrative, much easier to target the British and our culture than to highlight actual slavery that is still going on today all over the world.

  8. For me, as someone who suffered a form of racism because I was born abroad, I absolutely hate any form of racism, and the press certainly came across as racists to me with their photos on their back pages.

    As for he saying goes; there’s only one race, and that’s the human race.

  9. @Admin Pat.
    Why do you sterilise this forum to this extent that you will moderate very vanilla comments?
    We are all grown up adults on here that can handle adult talk. As long as someone is not racist, abusive etc then you shouldn’t regulate / delete their comments.

    The whole thing becomes a bit sterile and over moderated. @NY-gunner replied to my comment with a vanilla reply, even if I did not agree with it, it should not have been deleted. I also had replied to his reply with another vanilla comment. But I come back to look at the progression in our back and forth then realised you deleted both our relies on my original comment.

    Come on @Admin Pat. Let people speak about these controversial issues even if they are uncomfortable.

      1. At the end of every article admin asks for civility – surprisingly that doesn’t appear to be the case regarding this one… unless I’m getting confused once again?
        Perhaps admin realised this article would invoke a lot more views than just football related ones?
        I’ve enjoyed the debates lately, as they are based on views, rather than personal insults and level of education!!
        It does seem that Pat’s insistence on policing said viewpoints is working…. in my opinion anyway.

    1. I am watching carefully for any personal or abusive comments. Your “discussion” with NYG was becoming a bit too personal for my liking.

      I am well aware that once race starts getting discussed it can descend quickly into insults and I will always nip that in the bud.

      1. @Admin Pat The majority of the article is about race, what else do you expect people to discuss? 😀

  10. Why do people act like racism is foreign to the British . We saw the headlines in Nigeria concerning publicity merchant Meghan Markles. lol.Or was it when Crouch said that If Lookman had waited longer, he would have been called to the England squad? lol
    I don’t know about you but i prefer my racism, which is old-fashioned and straight to your face rather than reverse and sneaky.

    1. Is he simply not saying it’s harder to get into the English team then Nigeria’s at the moment
      That’s not racist
      He obviously had interest in playing for England at one point as he played for them at underage level

  11. When Atalanta won the European courtesy of Ademola Look an hattrick to beat the Invincibles Bayer Leverkuson, This same Sky Sport posted a graphic of two Atalanta players, neither of which were that of Man of the Match and the only scorer in the match.

    Make whatever you want to make of that, but sky sport knows exactly what they were doing.

  12. I can only speak for myself. When I checked the back pages it didn’t occur to me that they used a black person I said to myself ffs why use Saka an Arsenal player? So I can see where people are coming from when they ask why.

  13. @Dan, the people you mention—Maguire, Xhaka, Southgate, and Beckham—were vilified for a reason. Maguire played poorly, and Xhaka didn’t fit into the systems at the time. The others missed crucial penalties. When fans and media turned against them, there was always an underlying reason, albeit sometimes weak. That’s football. When Rashford, Sancho, and others were abused for missing penalties, I understood the fans’ frustration. What I didn’t agree with was adding the race element. In the case of Saka in the last game, why use him as the scapegoat for failure in almost all the papers? If he had played badly, missed a crucial chance, or was the player expected to carry the team, that would have been understandable.

    1. Disagree mate
      In last World Cup when we drew 0-0 with Scotland my best mate and brother said Maguire was ……
      Maguire shouldn’t be playing
      He’s favoured

      In reality …..he was one of our best players so I ask the question …..why do you never pick on Stones ?

    2. But the accusations mate is racism
      So wouldn’t in that time Ince be blamed more then Beckham ( missed pen at 98 WC )
      Vessel more then Rooney ( missed pen at Euro 2024 )
      Cole at Euro 2012 ( missed pen )
      Argument therefore falls down
      Vassel , Ince and Cole missed pens just like Southgate. White players got hider time
      Is that racism ?

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