Lauren James subject of ‘racial profiling’, says Chelsea boss Emma Hayes

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Chelsea manager Emma Hayes believes Lauren James has been the subject of “racial profiling” and labelled the abuse the forward has received as “disgusting”.

James, 22, was subjected to online abuse after Chelsea’s 4-1 defeat by Arsenal in the Women’s Super League on Sunday after the England international had appeared to stamp on opponent Lia Walti.

The incident came when Chelsea were trailing 3-1 in the match, with James subsequently substituted by Hayes. The abuse directed at James after the match prompted Chelsea to release a statement on Tuesday in which they pledged to “take action” against perpetrators that could be identified.

“I think it’s disgusting, the amount of abuse she has received from the public, the media and the press,” Hayes said on Wednesday ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League group-stage game against Hacken.

“This is a young player who is always working to learn in the background, but some of the language I have seen used to vilify her externally is unacceptable.

“I don’t see the same level of abuse attributed to other players in the league who might have had their own challenging moments.

“If I were in her position, I would think there is racial profiling going on.

“I think it is important for the country to recognise she is an important talent who is learning all the time and can make mistakes, but some of the derogatory and very misleading conversations during the commentaries in games and on social media are things that everyone should reflect upon.

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Would Lauren James have escaped the vitriol Beckham and Rooney faced if England had lost?

Hayes added: “Of course, every opponent tries everything possible to get Lauren red-carded. That’s been clear in every game we’ve played and she has to learn to handle that.

“When she gets antagonised in a certain way, managing emotions comes with maturity and that isn’t there yet with her.

“It reminds me very much of David Beckham in many ways when he got red-carded in the World Cup.

“I think the treatment of Lauren is sometimes very similar and I think we have to realise for a young person, in a day and age when social media is unbelievably vitriolic, some of the nasty language and labelling and name-calling goes over the edge.

“And if you add racism to that for her, you can understand why her mental health is not in a very good place this week.”

James was previously targeted with racist abuse when playing for Manchester United in 2021, when she wrote on an Instagram post that she “couldn’t stay quiet any longer”.

James said at the time: “Unfortunately it’s not the first time and won’t be the last, but we don’t have to just accept it.

“We have to continue to shout and make a noise until actual actions take place.”

One of England’s standout players during the 2023 World Cup despite receiving a red card for stamping on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie, James has been capped 20 times for the Lionesses and has scored six goals for Chelsea this campaign.

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This is Lauren James, England's golden girl – the world's best player in waiting

(Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images)

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