Premier League managers have pledged their support to the boycott of social media by football and the wider sporting community this weekend to combat online abuse and discrimination.
Sky Sports has joined a host of leading organisations, clubs and players in not posting any content online for the next four days in a unified response to the rising abuse online and the measures taken to deal with it.
A joint statement released on Saturday by all the participating English football organisations said: “Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight.”
A bill on Online Safety is due before Parliament this year and is expected to set out a duty of care to which tech companies must adhere, with large financial penalties for those found to be in breach.
“We could see fines of up to per cent of annual global turnover. For a company such as Facebook or YouTube, that could be billions,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told The Sun.
What have Premier League managers said?
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “I’m not the most experienced person with social media. But of course we have had cases where players have faced some weird things on social media. I had some talks with the boys then as well.
“The world of a football player is pretty public. Ask players from past what life they had around games, that has all disappeared. It doesn’t happen any more, one of the reasons is social media. I support all the clubs [in the boycott]. Things need to change.”
Maybe it is a drop of water in the ocean but at the same time it is a good initiative because everything is related to education.
Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola: “I’m not one to tell the players about their personal lives. They have to decide for themselves. Respect others like a normal position in our lives. What they want to do, they want to do.
“I speak for myself, maybe it is a drop of water in the ocean but at the same time it is a good initiative because everything is related to education. We’re going to follow it.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “I’m very pleased we’ve made this boycott. I think it’s important. Ever since I’ve come here we’ve been speaking regularly in intervals, too often, about racism, discrimination and abuse.
“This is our way of taking a standpoint. We’ve got our own campaign as well, See Red. I think it’s important that we affect people, influence people.
“We know we are not going to stop it but at least hopefully we can influence people a little bit and a little bit more and a little bit more until we stop talking about it because no-one is benefiting from this situation.”
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo believes the social media boycott will need to be repeated to ensure the anti-racism message is heard.
“It will take time but at the same time I don’t like to say many things because I think we are taking a big risk with regards to our freedom,” he said.
“Not everyone on social media uses it badly, you have to balance, and we can’t compromise our freedom but at the moment I think it’s a good measure.
“Will we have to repeat it again? Probably so, it takes time for people to understand the right message.
“It’s the same as the knee, it had an impact in the beginning and slowly it became something normal.”
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel: “It’s always good to set signs and a strong sign, signal, that we can join together and show that institutions, players and coaches are together. It’s worth trying.
“It will never be enough [to stop online hate], we can always do more but if a campaign like this is on, we are fully, fully committed. It’s a good thing to join.”
Tottenham interim manager Ryan Mason: “From my experience as a player, you almost have to learn to live with it which isn’t acceptable. It happens across so many platforms, it happens all the time, it has been happening for a very long time. I am happy that there is a bit of momentum behind it, but action needs to be taken.
“It is not acceptable that some of the abuse you see directed at players from many different people… but we don’t know who they are, their name or where they are from. That can’t happen. It shouldn’t be happening in the world we live in, so these social media platforms need to take some serious action.”
Asked whether it affected him when he played, he added: “I’d be lying if certain comments don’t affect you. We are human beings. I had to zone out from it, I took myself off social media as a player because I didn’t want to see it. Even after I retired I had messages about my injury and certain things. You almost think ‘it is just another message, I will ignore it’. These things shouldn’t be acceptable. They aren’t acceptable but they just seem to be okay to happen.”
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said: “I think it’s a good, unified approach from the football authorities, Sky Sports as well, I think everyone has got on board.
“We have to put pressure on these social media companies to stop abusive language being posted, seen or sent. Being unified and having this approach is the best way to make them take notice.
“The players are very supportive of it and happy it’s being done.”
Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce, who revealed his children had been targeted with abuse aimed at him earlier this season, said: “I worry about social media, not just for the racist stuff which is obviously disgusting. I worry for young people when they’re vulnerable and they’re looking at it.
“For me the world is a better place without it, but I do understand that it has its benefits too. But I think the governing bodies need to police it better.
“I don’t think we should all just be able to access [it on] a tablet or a phone. These disgusting messages which are out there are, in my opinion, not right, so I’m all for it. Let’s hope they can have an impact and they police the whole thing a bit better.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is completely behind the boycott and detailed the impact racist abuse directed towards Wilfried Zaha has had.
“We have certainly had our fair share of abuse to our players,” said Hodgson.
“In particular Wilf Zaha has been a constant target and on one or two occasions, it has even affected his mental state as one would expect it to.
“He has never indicated it has hurt him so much mentally he can’t train or play football, but there is no doubt a lot of the things that have gone on have had an effect on him.
“I find it very difficult myself to appreciate how much these players are able to take and how strong they can be in the face of such vile abuse from anonymous people.”
In Scotland, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard also spoke about the boycott and his belief that a unified approach is the way to ensure action is taken to prevent and punish online abuse.
“You hope that the big social media companies are going to listen and take note,” he said.
“The more noise we make and send a message together that we’re going to keep pushing for change, there’s the hope that one day the penny will drop and people will start taking this seriously and help make things better.”
Sky Sports joins social media boycott
Sky Sports is supporting the boycott of social media by football and the wider sporting community this weekend.
Sky Sports will not post any sports content to its channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Tik Tok for the duration of the boycott period from 3pm on Friday April 30 until 11.59pm on Monday May 3.
Sky Sports stands with our football, cricket and other sport partners to urge social media companies to do more to eradicate online hate and ensure social media can be a place for sports fans to discuss, debate and consume the best sporting action without discrimination and abuse.
Sky’s partnership with Kick It Out is based on fighting discrimination and championing inclusion, and our action this weekend demonstrates our clear and enduring commitment to the cause.
Sky Sports TV channels, website (skysports.com) and two apps (Sky Sports app and Sky Sports Scores app) will remain the go-to destinations for sports fans to keep up to date with all the action, scores and sporting news throughout this exciting weekend of sport.
Who else is involved?
Football: The sport’s authorities kicked off the boycott plans last Saturday night, in response to a rising tide of online hate aimed at players, managers and pundits.
Clubs across the Premier League, EFL, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will switch off their accounts. Governing bodies’ central accounts – such as those belonging to the Premier League, the Football Association, the WSL, the EFL, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the League Managers Association and the Football Supporters’ Association are also involved, as are anti-discrimination bodies Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card.
Clubs and governing bodies across Scottish football have also now pledged to support the boycott, along with the Football Association of Wales.
As President of the FA I join the entire football community in the social media boycott this weekend. W
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) April 30, 2021
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the Football Association, is joining the boycott.
Prince William tweeted: “As President of the FA I join the entire football community in the social media boycott this weekend. W”
Cricket: The England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Wednesday that it, the 18 first-class counties, the eight women’s regional teams and the Professional Cricketers’ Association were joining the boycott.
Rugby union: The Rugby Football Union stands in solidarity with the football and cricket authorities, and its accounts for England Rugby, the Allianz Premier 15s, the Championship and GB7s will all suspend activity, it was confirmed on Thursday. Clubs in the Gallagher Premiership announced they were boycotting social media the previous day, with the support of the Rugby Players’ Association, while Scottish Rugby also joined in on Thursday, with Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors’ accounts becoming inactive.
Rugby League: Super League, organisers of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby League Players’ Association are all taking part in the blackout.
Tennis: The Lawn Tennis Association announced on Monday its intention to stand with football in support of the boycott. On Friday morning, the International Tennis Federation and International Tennis Integrity Agency said both organisations
would “stand united with all sports against social media abuse” to support the social media boycott.
Darts: The Professional Darts Corporation said on Thursday it will support the social media boycott.
Lewis Hamilton and F1 drivers: With Formula 1 not planning to take part, the seven-time world champion is happy to help, saying: “I am fully supportive of the initiative and if me doing it helps put pressure on those platforms in order to help fight against it then, for sure, I am happy to do so.” On Friday, several other drivers announced they would be joining the boycott, including George Russell, Lando Norris, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher.
Horse Racing: British Horseracing said it will take part in the boycott from 9pm on Friday evening, following a planned commemoration of the life of Lorna Brooke.
Cycling: British Cycling is standing in “solidarity with all of those who have suffered or continue to suffer abuse” in joining the boycott.
Sponsors: Sportswear giant Adidas – which manufactures more than a third of Premier League kits – is stopping all advertising across its platforms. Barclays, which sponsors the WSL, will support the blackout, with no social media posts on the Barclays Football pages of Facebook and Instagram nor the Barclays Footy Twitter account, while the company’s other social channels will avoid all football-related activity.
England football team sponsor Budweiser has signed up, along with Nationwide, while online car retailer Cazoo – which sponsors Everton and Aston Villa – became the first major sponsor to announce its support of the boycott on
Broadcasters: Joining Sky Sports, BT Sport says the only posts on its channels over the blackout period will relate to social media abuse while talkSPORT is also supporting the boycott, along with fellow Premier League broadcasters Amazon Prime.
What have the social media companies said?
A Twitter spokesperson told Sky Sports News: “Racist behaviour, abuse and harassment have absolutely no place on our service and alongside our partners in football, we condemn racism in all its forms.
“We are resolute in our commitment to ensure the football conversation on our service is safe for fans, players and everyone involved in the game.
“Since the season started on September 12, there have been over 30m Tweets from people in the UK about football. In that time we have removed over 7,000 Tweets in the UK that were targeting the football conversation with violations of the Twitter Rules. This represents roughly 0.02 per cent of the overall football conversation in the UK and does not reflect the vast majority of people who engage in vibrant discussions about football on Twitter.
“We have worked to improve our proactive measures, where now 90 per cent of the abuse targeting players is removed without the need for a user report. We’ve also provided expedited reporting channels to our football partners to ensure any potentially violative content is reviewed and actioned swiftly.
“Racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play. We are committed to doing our part and continue to work closely with valued partners in football, government and police, along with the working group convened by Kick It Out to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively – both online and away from social media.”
Facebook, who own Instagram, said they would “continue listening to feedback and fighting hate and racism on our platform” and work with UK police on hate speech.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “No one should have to experience abuse anywhere, and it’s against our policies to harass or discriminate against people on Instagram or Facebook.
“We agree with and have already made progress on many of the players’ suggestions, including taking tougher action against people breaking our rules in DMs.
“We also recently announced that, starting next week, we’ll provide new tools, based on consultation with footballers and anti-discrimination experts, to help prevent people seeing abusive messages from strangers.”
Sky Sports News has also contacted Snapchat, Tik Tok, and YouTube for a response.
Hate Won’t Stop Us
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Kick It Out reporting racism
Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion organisation – working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.