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UK to ban online racists from games after Euro 2020 uproar

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LONDON, July 14, (AP): U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to ban anyone guilty of online racist abuse from attending soccer matches after three members of England’s national team were targeted following its loss in the European Championship final. Johnson on Wednesday condemned the abuse leveled at three Black players after they failed to score penalties in England’s shootout defeat to Italy on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. And Johnson told the House of Commons it was time to act.

In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a statement in the House of Commons, London, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. Johnson has warned Britons they should not expect to return to a normal social or work life for at least six months, as he announced new restrictions he hopes will suppress a surge in coronavirus cases. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

The government plans to add online racism to the list of offenses for which fans can be barred from matches, he said. “What we are doing is taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning regime is changed so that if you are guilty of racist abuse online on football, then you will not be going to the match,’’ Johnson said during his weekly prime minister’s questions session. “No ifs, no buts, no exemptions, no excuses.” Courts are allowed to issue banning orders if a fan is convicted of a “relevant offence” linked to a match, including crimes such as disorderly behavior or possession of weapons. Meanwhile, Bernard O’Byrne has stepped down as chief executive of Ireland’s basketball federation after his offensive social media post about England soccer player Raheem Sterling. O’Byrne wrote “Black Dives Matter” in response to a BBC post about the controversial penalty won by Sterling in England’s 2-1 victory over Denmark in the European Championship semifinals. The penalty was awarded by the referee in extra time. A video review confirmed the decision.

O’Byrne had apologized but Basketball Ireland said in a statement late Tuesday that a “joint decision” was made for the CEO to leave. “Basketball Ireland takes a zero tolerance stance on any form of discrimination, and diversity and inclusion are key pillars in our sport,” said Basketball Ireland chairman Paul McDevitt, describing the comment as “unacceptable.” O’Byrne’s comment preceded the wave of racist abuse directed toward Black players from the England squad after their shootout loss to Italy in the European Championship final. O’Byrne had joined the federation in 2011 after a stint as CEO of the Football Association of Ireland. “While I am hugely disappointed that this is how my decade with Basketball Ireland has ended, I understand that stepping down is in the best interests of the sport,” O’Byrne said in the joint statement with the governing body. “I am deeply apologetic over the hurt caused by my remark and I am fully cognizant of the struggles with discrimination that many people are having to deal with in day-to-day life,” his statement continued. “My comment was an offthe- cuff, extremely ill-judged attempt at humor based on wordplay only, that was never intended to be racially insensitive or make light of organizations which have done so much to help raise awareness of inclusion and discrimination.”

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