After a string of high-profile incidents involving racist tweets, the football community has begun a social media boycott in an attempt to highlight the issue and raise awareness. The online protest, which began yesterday, was in response to a series of tweets from professional footballers aimed at the Liverpool defender, footballer and England international, Glen Johnson, who was born in London.
A huge social media boycott, involving over 30 football clubs, players and sporting organizations, has swept across the United Kingdom, as part of a larger protest against a recent scandal involving high-ranking officials in the UK. The scandal, which has been nicknamed “Suxgate” by the British press, involves allegations that the UK’s top football referees and governing bodies for sport accepted bribes in order to influence their decisions in high-profile matches, including the World Cup.
English football and cricket clubs and institutions will boycott Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for four days.
Football clubs, players, athletes and a number of sports organisations have launched a four-day boycott of social media to combat abuse and discrimination on their platforms.
It began at 15:00 BST on Friday and ends at 23:59 BST on Monday.
The solidarity event for online abuse wants to encourage companies to take a harder line against racist and sexist statements made by users.
Rugby Union, Cricket and Rugby League were also in attendance.
Premier League managers react to switch-off social media
The Premier League has issued a statement ahead of a four-day silence, saying it will not stop challenging companies until discriminatory online abuse is removed from our game and society as a whole.
We know that boycotts alone will not solve this problem, so we will continue to take active steps to demand change, the statement said.
A number of players issued statements shortly before the protests began and football clubs replaced their Twitter icons with a blackened version of their logo.
Leeds United midfielder Calvin Phillips wrote: I’m disappointed that we have to do all this. Social media should be a safe space for everyone.
I really hope the major platforms will make it a priority to eliminate online abuse from their systems. It’s already a problem in society, let’s do more to stop it online too.
The anti-discrimination group Kick It Out says the boycott is a sign of our collective anger now that other sports have joined football.
Organizations boycotting Twitter, Facebook and Instagram include:
- Football: Clubs in the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League, Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish Women’s Football; governing bodies such as the Football Association, Scottish FA, Football Association of Wales and Football Association of Ireland; the European governing body, Uefa; a number of other football organisations.
- Cricket: England and Wales Cricket Board, First Class Counties, Women’s Regional Teams and Professional Cricketers’ Association.
- Netball : Super League, England Netball, Netball Players Association
- Rugby Union: English rugby, Scottish rugby, Welsh rugby, French rugby, Premiership rugby, clubs and rugby players’ union.
- Rugby League: Rugby Football League, European Super League, Rugby World Cup 2021 and Rugby Players’ Association.
- Business Organizations : Barclays, sponsor of the Premier League and Women’s Super League, Nationwide, sponsor of England, Adidas; broadcasters Sky Sports, BT Sport and Talksport.
- Formula One: All drivers
British Cycling, British Equestrian, Great Britain and England Hockey and the Lawn Tennis Association are also involved.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is chairman of the FA, has joined the team, as have seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Williams driver George Russell.
Formula One said it was fully committed to fighting any form of discrimination, online or otherwise, and supported the sports organisations and athletes involved in the boycott.
While some drivers have been involved in this, Formula 1 is not known to be affected as it does not deal with such abuses on its social media platforms.
The newspaper said it could not take part in the campaign because we have special obligations under our Royal Charter and editorial rules that do not allow us to take part in lobbying campaigns that do not apply to other organisations.
We will continue to vigorously and publicly oppose abuse in social media, and expose and confront racism. And we will continue to bring broad attention to the impact of hate in social media – and this weekend’s boycott – on our platforms, the company added.
What did the players say?
Crystal Palace striker Andros Townsend told Sport that the players are starting to fight. He added that the boycott will serve as a warning to these companies that if they do not start regulating their platforms, they will be shut down indefinitely.
Watford captain Troy Deeney told the breakfast that the social media boycott was a great move.
We’ve all been talking about the effect of social media on the younger generation and mental health for a long time, he said.
I think the main thing is that it’s only four days and it can give people an idea of what life can be like without a huge amount of sports stars on [social media].
Deeney added that he receives insults on a daily basis, which are also directed at his partner and children.
It’s very hard for me to read, but also to not respond, he said. We should not react, we are in a privileged position, but when we react on a human level, we are responsible for our reactions.
Former West Ham, Sunderland and QPR defender Anton Ferdinand has told Radio 5 Live that the fight against online abuse has reached a point where it will no longer be tolerated in football.
There should be a lifetime ban because human lives are at stake, he said.
Some people don’t come out of their depression after being abused on social media, and this can lead to them doing something to themselves.
We need to take this very, very seriously.
Ferdinand also asked the British government to do more.
Was the energy of the government the same as before the [European] Super League? No, he didn’t, and that’s disappointing, he said.
When it comes to sterling and money, people behave well, and they seem to behave well.
The government hasn’t done that when it comes to discrimination on social media, the energy is bad, and that’s one of the reasons why social media companies don’t listen to what football organisations have to say.
Players proud to speak out against racism – Townsend
Burnley captain Ben Mee told the Radio 4 programme Today that he hoped social media companies would pay attention: There are plenty of technologies that can help stop this abuse online, not just in football, sports or everyday life.
We must protect both young children and young adults. And as we grow up on all this social media, it is imperative that these trolls and keyboard warriors are held accountable for their actions.
Why are they doing this?
Two years ago, a number of players took part in the #Enough campaign, a 24-hour boycott of social media to protest online abuse.
But players in all sports still suffer from racist violence and some clubs call in the police because of the level of aggression.
An investigation by the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union, found 56 offensive posts on Twitter in November 2020.
The PFA reported them to the platform, but 31 of them are still visible, which the organization called totally unacceptable.
Manchester United announced on Friday that its own analysis has revealed that the number of insults directed at the club’s players has increased by 350%, with 3,300 anti-game messages posted between September 2019 and February 2021.
It was found that 86% of these messages were racist and 8% were homophobic or transphobic.
Three weeks ago Swansea City, Birmingham City and Rangers closed their social media accounts for a week to protest against the abuse.
It’s not acceptable to be offended online – Henry tells Newsnight about his decision to quit social media.
Former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry removed himself from social media in March for racism and harassment on all platforms.
A survey of top British athletes conducted by Sport in August found that a third of participants had been abused on social media.
Some football associations set out the changes they want in a letter to Facebook and Twitter in February.
The UK government has already threatened social media companies with heavy fines that could run into billions of pounds if they don’t tackle abuse on their platforms.
Individuals and football clubs spoke out against the abuses and it was decided that group action was the best way to bring about change.
What do social media companies say?
Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it is committed to fighting abuse on its platforms.
Last week, Instagram announced a tool that allows users to automatically filter offensive posts from people they don’t follow on the platform.
In February, Twitter issued a lengthy statement about the external link in which it said it is doing its best to ensure that conversations about football on our service are safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game.
The company added that it had deleted more than 7,000 UK football-related tweets that violated its rules.
Facebook appalled at online abuse of footballers – Fadzai Madzingira, head of content policy, in conversation with sports editor Dan Roan.