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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Police launch investigation into racism aimed at Son Heung-min

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Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min scores against West Ham during a Premier League game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

Britain’s Football Policing Unit has launched an investigation into racist abuse targeting Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min following a report from London’s Metropolitan Police.

“The Met has made the UK Football Policing Unit aware of a number of offensive social media comments and they are now carrying out further investigations,” said a Metropolitan Police statement published by Britain’s The Sun newspaper. “Comments of this nature are racist and wholly unacceptable. We will seek to locate and bring those responsible to justice.”

The police investigation comes after Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday called on the authorities and social media companies to respond after racist abuse was aimed at Son in a series of online posts during Tottenham’s game against West Ham.

“We have been made aware of the utterly reprehensible online racist abuse directed at Heung-Min Son during today’s match, which has been reported by the Club,” Tottenham said in a statement released on social media. “We stand with Sonny and once again call on the social media companies and authorities to take action.”

Tottenham did not disclose which specific abuse was reported to the authorities, but multiple tweets from self-proclaimed West Ham fans calling Son a “dog eating [expletive]” were posted shortly after Son scored a 72nd-minute goal on Sunday.  

England’s Football Association also tweeted a call for social media companies to take action. A statement was also released by Kick It Out, the British government-backed organization dedicated to combating racism in football.

Racism is a chronic problem in the Premier League and in football across Europe. Last August a Chelsea fan was caught on camera making a racist gesture at Son, two weeks after Wolverhampton Wanderers complained to UEFA due to racism aimed at Hwang Hee-chan during a friendly in Portugal.

Son has faced racist abuse a number of times throughout his career with Tottenham Hotspur. In June last year, 12 men were forced by the police to write public apologies to Son after sharing racist abuse online.  

In 2021, Manchester United suspended three season-ticket holders after Son received online abuse after a game. In 2020, a pundit on an Arsenal supporters channel was forced to step down after using derogatory slang to describe Son, and in 2019, a West Ham United supporter was fined for racially abusing him.

The incident in Portugal was also not the first time that Hwang, now in his second season with Wolverhampton, has faced racist abuse. In 2021, when he was first introduced to Wolves fans on the sidelines of a game against Manchester United, United fans sang an offensive chant that references Koreans eating dog meat.

That incident triggered former United star Park Ji-sung to call out his own fans, condemning their continued use of a song that perpetuates racist stereotypes and is targeted at younger Korean players.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]