The beautiful game that we all love has reared its ugly head again in recent weeks, with an abhorrent level of racist abuse directed at some of the Premier League’s most high-profile stars on social media.
We All Have a Responsibility to Condemn Racist Abuse
Marcus Rashford Becomes the Latest Target of Racist Abuse
The year is 2021 and one would hope that the tide against such bigoted behaviour would have turned by now, but it is clear that plenty more action needs to be taken by everyone to stop this scourge blighting football and indeed, society as a whole.
A recent depressing timeline of events reveals the broad number of players targeted by the so-called ‘keyboard warriors’, who take advantage of their relative anonymity on social media and launch a torrid of unacceptable comments towards some of the game’s household names.
Marcus Rashford was the latest target of such comments on Instagram following Manchester United’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal on January 30 and eloquently condemned his abusers in a poignant post on Twitter.
He said: “I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am.
“No-one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different. So sorry if you were looking for a strong reaction, you’re just simply not going to get it here.
“I’m not sharing screenshots. It would be irresponsible to do so and as you can imagine there’s nothing original in them.
“I have beautiful children of all colours following me and they don’t need to read it. Beautiful colours that should only be celebrated.”
Rashford’s United teammates, Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial also attracted the attention of racist trolls following a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, prompting a statement from the Red Devils urging the likes of Facebook and Twitter to do more to identify the “anonymous mindless idiots.”
Reece James Speaks Out Against Racist Abuse
Chelsea defender Reece James was among many of the high-profile names to be singled out on Instagram, and unlike Rashford, he chose to screenshot the messages he received with a sentiment that is echoed across the football world, stating: “something needs to change.”
While the Sawyers case is an example of a so-called ‘keyboard warrior’ being brought to justice, there have been growing calls for social media companies to do more in identifying the perpetrators.
In an interview with the BBC, former Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas said: “The platforms, I need them to show me these people and say they’re doing everything they can to bring some justice. For those asking why we are still taking the knee [Black Lives Matter protest], there you go.”
The Ongoing Issue in Europe
It would be naïve to believe the issue of racism is just restricted in England, as incidents in the near continent have seen such abuse directed at players from fans and from fellow players.
On January 21, Union Berlin defender Florian Hubner was banned for two games following a confrontation with Bayer Leverkusen’s Nadiem Amiri. A German soccer federation disciplinary panel found Hubner guilty of “unsporting behaviour”, but found no evidence of racist abuse.
This was despite Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah coming out in support of Hubner claiming that a Union player had used a derogatory term relating to Hubner’s Afghan background.
The Ways in Which Racist Abuse is Being Countered
There is no doubt that fast and cohesive action is needed to bring the scourge of racism under control.
The United Kingdom government held talks with current and former men and women footballers about the best ways to fight racism and discrimination, with the likes of Karen Carney, Tyrone Mings and Jordan Henderson all taking part in a much-needed conversation addressing the issue.
The discussion came to light following an announcement that new laws would be enforced to combat incidents of online abuse, and more pressure would be placed on social media companies to take an active role in addressing the problem.
There have also been a number of positive steps being taken across Italy and Spain to counter their own issues of racism, with external bodies partnering with the football authorities in these countries in issuing protocols to follow and providing sanctions where necessary.
Facebook and Twitter Need to Be More Vocal
While this all shows progress, it is vital that Facebook and Twitter become much more vocal in their condemnation of racist abuse and publicise a co-ordinated approach to tackle what is arguably the biggest blight on modern-day society.
They must now step up and use their influence to formulate a clear plan of action that will eradicate these comments once and for all.
Education is also key in providing a long-term solution – the Premier League, Kick It Out, The FA, UEFA, FIFA and many others, need to coordinate a plan to teach the next generation about the ways in which racist abuse can be recognised and to promote values of equality and inclusion.
There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but everyone needs to be willing to fight against this plight.
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