‘There’s a very small number of players who do that, and it’s in bad taste’
England captain Eoin Morgan played down talk of racism in the national side but agreed that many were incensed by his decision to take part in the national team’s boycott of the pre-match team photo, and directed their anger at the striker Jesse Lingard, who has been criticised for making a similar gesture to open the match against Spain.
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“I think some of the stuff Jesse’s been called is deeply irresponsible to fuel the flames,” Morgan said. “I don’t think he understands how we’re perceived. It’s in bad taste. It’s not racist. There’s a very small number of players who do that, and it’s in bad taste.”
Lingard was criticised on social media for making the gesture before Saturday’s game in Dublin against Spain. While Morgan said “there’s no evidence” that racism had played a part in the reason, he did admit that he was a “provocateur”.
Eoin Morgan, left, with Kieran Read and Liam Dawson before the summer series with Ireland. Photograph: Rebecca Naden/AFP/Getty Images
“There is the suggestion that it’s because he’s black but it’s just not true. He didn’t say he did it for racism. I’m a provocateur,” he added. “It was me saying the referees were better footballers than the players, that two managers call a team meeting and spend an hour and a half talking football. But what do we expect from someone like that? They think this has been the best time to come out and say what he did.”
Former Irish cricketer Ed Joyce said the comments on social media and in the Irish media were “totally unfair”, adding: “For many people, Jesse is a role model because of what he does on and off the pitch. I haven’t spoken to anyone who has said anything that bad.
“Personally, I think Jesse is a nice kid who wants to have fun and has a laugh and joke. If he has even one negative person who thought the person or people surrounding him were racist then that’s too much. The best message for Jesse is that he has helped increase the profile of equality.”