A Sheffield taxi driver who was racially abused outside the New York stadium in Rotherham asked for a report about the incident to be removed from the Star’s website after his family began receiving horrendous abuse.
The taxi driver, who now wants to remain nameless, was called a ‘Muslim f***er’ outside the Millers’ New York stadium on Saturday, February 16, after their home game against Sheffield Wednesday.
In a report published on the Star website and Facebook page the day after the incident, he criticised the slow police response, but was met with a torrent of hate.
He later asked for the story to be withdrawn from The Star website over fears for the safety of his family after the abuse continued on their personal Facebook accounts.
Anti-racist campaigning organisation Sheffield Stand Up To Racism said the level of abuse displayed on the post was a worrying sign of how emboldened those with racist attitudes had recently become.
Maxine Bowler, co-convenor of Sheffield Stand Up To Racism, said: “The people who abused this taxi driver are clearly trying to make the link between Muslim men and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. It is awful.
“As soon as someone puts up an article with an anti-racist theme, people gravitate to put all sorts of vile abuse on it. They then troll and intimidate people who stand up to them.”
Maxine said the taxi driver incident and subsequent comments on social media were part of a worrying increase in racism that was manifesting itself on a worldwide scale.
“The far right are mobilising on a global scale,” she said.
“Somebody even turned up outside one of our meetings about six months ago and a video they shared was liked 4,000 times.
“But we recently leafleted a Sheffield United home game and found fans very supportive. That showed the best side of people who don’t want to see this kind of hate.”
Amid hundreds of social media comments, some of them supportive, were dozens of clearly racist posts suggesting the taxi driver was linked with Rotherham grooming gangs or telling him to ‘f*** back off’ if he didn’t like it.
As well as the comments, on Facebook 71 people ‘laughed’ at the post, compared to 39 ‘angry’ reactions and 15 ‘sad’ ones.
The abuse is not limited to hate crime stories, with posts about certain Sheffield suburbs regularly attracting racist comments.
A common trope is to mention Sheffield’s ‘city of sanctuary’ status for refugees when commenting on violent crime incidents which may have involved people from ethnic minorities.
On the same day as the Rotherham incident, Sheffield Green Party Councillor Kaltum Rivers revealed she had been told about another racist episode in South Yorkshire, this time on public transport.
On Twitter she wrote: “Saddened as I listened to a young woman who was racially abused on Sheffield bus, she did not report due to fear but she was supported by passengers.
“Hate crime training for public workers falls to deaf ears. Bus drivers need to report incidents like this. They too had found the crime difficult to report but again didn’t want to go public for fear of reprisals.”
Hate crime incidents were widely reported to have gone up in the UK after the country voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.
Last year, South Yorkshire Police revealed that 1,288 incidents had been reported where someone had been abused or attacked due to their race, a 61 per cent increase on the previous year, when 798 cases were recorded.
A spokesperson for Rotherham United said: “The club were made aware of an allegation of racial abuse outside the stadium involving supporters following the game with Sheffield Wednesday.
“We have extended our full support to South Yorkshire Police to assist them with their enquiries on this incident, and would like to reiterate that Rotherham United operate a zero tolerance policy on discrimination of any sort.
“Anyone proven to have used racially abusive language will be have their details passed onto the Police, and may receive a lifetime ban from the club.
“We would like to remind supporters that incidents can be reported via ‘Kick it Out’ or at home games, reports can be made anonymously by texting 07507 449121.
“This number is also displayed on the big screen, website and match day programme at The AESSEAL New York Stadium. Supporters can also report using the Kick it Out app.”
South Yorkshire Police said the matter had been reported to them and an investigation was underway.