Hazel Roy felt compelled to show her solidarity for Mr. Rashford on Tuesday, despite it being her 75th birthday. “I was appalled when I heard that the mural had been defaced,” she said. But, she added, “I was so heartened to hear many people had come to offer their support for him, because I think what he’s done is magnificent.”
Long before his meteoric rise as a soccer star for Manchester United and the England national team, Mr. Rashford, now a famous multimillionaire athlete, once relied on free school meals.
During lockdown last year, Mr. Rashford introduced a campaign to help provide food for more than two million British children during the coronavirus lockdown, an effort that captured national attention after the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to extend a Covid-related free school meal program into the six-week summer vacation last year. Mr. Johnson eventually made a U-turn after receiving widespread criticism.
At Button Lane Primary School, where Mr. Rashford was once a student, Emma Roberts, the head teacher, said both staff members and pupils had been deeply affected by the torrent of racist abuse directed toward Mr. Rashford, who still visits the school.
“Speaking to the pupils this week, they’re more upset that Marcus has had to deal with racist abuse than the fact that England lost in the final,” she said.
An analysis of tweets directed over the last 12 months at elite soccer, basketball, tennis, golf and ice hockey athletes by Pickswise, a sports betting website, found that Mr. Rashford suffered more attacks on Twitter than any other soccer player in the world. The only athlete who received a greater number of abusive tweets was LeBron James, the basketball player.
Shaista Aziz, an avid England fan and antiracism campaigner, is one of three women who started #TheThreeHijabis online petition, which has now received almost a million signatures, calling on England’s Football Association and the British government to permanently ban from soccer matches those carrying out racist abuse online or offline.