Racist graffiti was scrawled on a mural honouring England footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – at a building dedicated to the world’s first black professional footballer.
The words “We do not stand with the 3 Black Lions” was added below the shirt numbers of the players painted on the white wall of the Arthur Wharton Foundation in Darlington.
Further racist graffiti was written next to a painting of the England football badge. “If the current rate of non-white immigration continues, white Brits will be a minority by 2060.” it read. The hashtag “wake up” was added.
Darlington MP Peter Gibson condemned the graffiti – which has since been removed – and called for those responsible to be “identified and punished”.
He said: “The Arthur Wharton Foundation has done much to promote understanding of the contribution of black footballers throughout our history.
“I am appalled by the vandalism, and the racism of that has been daubed on the murals. Our town is an open welcoming place to all people.”
Activists with the campaign group Stand Up To Racism took the knee during a demonstration at the scene on Saturday afternoon.
“Overnight a cowardly racist has decided to spread hate,” the group tweeted. “We condemn this racism and we stand in solidarity with the Arthur Wharton Foundation We are the majority and cowardly racists are not welcome.”
The Arthur Wharton Foundation, which was set up in 2010, unveiled the tribute to the three England players on Wednesday.
Wharton, the son of a Grenadian-Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother, began his career in Darlington in 1885 and played for leading clubs Sheffield United, Rotherham and Preston North End during a 17-year career. He also played professional cricket and set the world record for the 100 yard sprint in 1886.
Durham Constabulary said it was investigating the damage to the mural, which is believed to happened overnight on Friday.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101, quoting incident reference 129 of 17 July.