U.S. national soccer team defender Mark McKenzie a target of racist abuse on social media

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Another soccer player has been subjected to racist abuse on social media platforms. This time it’s a U.S. men’s national soccer team starter who has exposed it.

Central defender Mark McKenzie shared a post on Instagram with an image of a racist message he received.

“The amount of racial abuse and personal attacks on myself and family from ‘supporters’ and ‘non-supporters’ just ain’t it,” McKenzie wrote on his Instagram Stories.


McKenzie, 22, started for the USMNT in the Concacaf Nations League final against Mexico and played the entire match, helping the USA win 3-2 and capture the inaugural title.

He played on the right of a three-man center back line and his performance was bookended by two plays that came under the microscope: a second minute giveaway that led to Mexico’s opening goal and a handball in the last minute of extra time that resulted in a penalty kick which was not converted by Mexico. The hand ball was not initially called by the referee and the penalty was only awarded after video review.

Despite the early error, McKenzie recovered and logged a composed and dependable performance under tough circumstances: He had to deal with Mexico’s most skillful attackers in Tecatito Corona, Chucky Lozano and Diego Lainez. He’s expected to continue to get a run of games as one of the candidates to replace Aaron Long, who will be out with a long-term Achilles injury. McKenzie started both the Nations League semifinal and final, and he’s been a regular U.S. call-up since his debut in February 2020 (five total appearances).

Last year, McKenzie was one of many American professional soccer players to use his voice and platform to bring awareness to racial inequity and social injustice.

“As much as I love being Black and being part of this community, it’s almost a burden at times because you feel you have to do that much more in order to be seen, or to be seen as equal,” McKenzie told SkySports in an interview, during which he shared incidents of racist abuse he experienced in youth matches. “That’s a drastic statement but it’s a real statement. Whether it’s the workforce or if I’m walking down the street. If I’m walking with a beanie on and a hoodie, I may be seen as a threat. It’s a real issue and it hits home because it’s my life — it’s who I am.”

The stories of racist abuse on social media have been persistent in recent months. Leagues and clubs in England have gone as far as boycotting social media platforms after Black players reported being subject to abuse.

McKenzie plays his club soccer with Belgium power Genk after coming through as a Philadelphia Union homegrown player in Major League Soccer. The Union transferred him to Genk in January 2021 for a reported $6 million fee and in his first season in Belgium, McKenzie won the Belgian Cup and helped the team qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League qualifying round. He made a total of 16 appearances across all competitions, starting Genk’s final three league matches.

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