Meghan Markle is notably not Italian. But Italians nevertheless claimed the British-monarchy defector as "one of us" on Sunday evening, thus beginning the strange tale of why the Duchess of Sussex began trending after a soccer match she did not attend.
On Sunday, the English national football team (the soccer kind of football team) lost to the Italians in the UEFA European Championship finals. The tournament is a big deal for Europeans. Raising the stakes for the British even more this year, the final was played on England's home turf at Wembley Stadium in London, where Prince William and Kate Middleton were in attendance along with 7-year-old Prince George.
Always looking for a sore spot, as sports fans are wont to do, Italians latched onto Meghan Markle, who left the monarchy earlier this year following alleged racist abuse both within and outside of the royal family. An Italian flag hoisted above the crowd read, "Meghan One of Us." Others saw England's loss as a victory for Meghan — an inadvertent revenge.
The match was a close one, boiling down to penalty kicks, after more than 120 minutes of game time resulted in a 1-1 tie. After three Black British players missed their penalties, contributing to England's ultimate loss, they were met with racist taunts from English "fans" on social media.
In her explosive March interview with Oprah, Meghan asserted that she had been unable to speak out publicly against the racism she experienced from the press and the public, often met with excuses about "the way things are done" within the firm. Of course, racism isn't just an English problem. The rest of Europe — including Italy! — has dealt with its fair share of pervasive racism, especially within football. The inability to acknowledge Meghan's treatment as such further demonstrates the monarchy's refusal to see the problem in front of them. The racist outbursts from English fans on Sunday night simply validated Meghan's assertions. The British were as racist as she'd said they were.
Prince William responded to the comments immediately, issuing a statement on Twitter early Monday morning: "I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night's match," he wrote. "It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour. It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable." He signed the statement, "W."
To many, the statement read a bit like the pot calling the kettle anti-Black. Where was the statement in support of his brother and sister-in-law just a few months ago? Or when Meghan requested counseling? "I went to the institution and said that I needed to go somewhere to get help, said that I've never felt this way before and I need to go somewhere, and they said I couldn't, that it wouldn't be good for the institution," she recalled during the Oprah interview.
To expect that William would have accepted some responsibility for the allegations brought forth in the Oprah interview was to expect the bare minimum. Instead, William responded on the defensive: "We're very much not a racist family," he told the press hours after the interview aired. The Queen followed with: "The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately."
Even before Meghan and Harry stepped down from their positions, Harry was the only one to issue public statements against the barrage of racism she faced in the UK — which he did frequently, reportedly against the advice of his own team.
This time it's William speaking out, and while we cannot know what he was advised by his team or the rest of the Royal family, we do know this: His statement of support really didn't have anything to do with his sister-in-law at all.
Correction: An earlier version referred to Meghan Markle as the "former" Duchess of Sussex, which has been corrected, as she retains the Duchess title.
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