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12-Year-Old Arrested for Racist Messages Sent to Wilfried Zaha on Instagram

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2020

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea FC at Selhurst Park on July 07, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Peter Cziborra/Pool via Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

West Midlands Police arrested a 12-year-old boy Sunday after he sent a series of racist messages and images to Crystal Palace's star winger Wilfried Zaha on social media, per ESPN.

West Midlands Police - #StayAlert @WMPolice

#ARRESTED| We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy. The 12-year-old from #Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won't be tolerated. https://t.co/oFxBUvdtV1

Zaha took screenshots of the messages and posted them to his Twitter account (warning: tweet contains racist images and profanity):

Wilfried Zaha @wilfriedzaha

Woke up to this today. https://t.co/Zal0F96htJ

The messages came before Aston Villa's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Both sides took a knee before the match began in support of the Black Lives Matter movement—as all Premier League sides have been doing since the league restarted in June—and both clubs released statements condemning the racist messages sent to Zaha:

Aston Villa @AVFCOfficial

We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to @wilfriedzaha. We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with @CPFC. We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban. https://t.co/Wx5wJVA1ww

The Premier League also released a statement:

Premier League @premierleague

@wilfriedzaha We will continue to support players, managers, coaches and their family members who receive serious discriminatory online abuse. Through our dedicated reporting system we can take immediate action on cases like this More about our reporting system: https://t.co/RUj6BU0DlN https://t.co/p7SKMGxoL3

"It is very saddening on the day of a game that a player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse," Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said, per Sky Sports. "I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it; I don't think it is something he should keep quiet about. ... There is literally no excuse [for the racist messages]; there is no excuse at all."

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Other clubs and former footballers also offered their support for Zaha:

Borussia Dortmund @BlackYellow

We strongly support and stand with Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha who was subjected to racial abuse on social media. Borussia Dortmund condemns all forms of discrimination. Enough is enough! #BorussiaVerbindet https://t.co/X0i74JvwjX

Ian Wright @IanWright0

People like to make these experiences seem like it's not the norm for black people. It's always an outlier. "Not one of us". "Not a real (insert club) fan".These are real people & daily experiences!! Sooner we accept it the better we can deal with it!!! We stand with you Wilf ✊🏾

Zaha started Sunday's game from his usual spot on the wing. In 35 total appearances this season (34 starts), he's posted four goals and three assists.

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