From Friday April 30th until Monday May 3 the sporting world observed a social media boycott in protest against the discriminatory and relentless online abuse aimed at players. A whole host of sporting bodies, broadcasters, and individuals took part in the boycott of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The statistics are shameful and incidents of online abuse are significantly rising. On Friday Manchester United revealed a 350% increase in online abuse directed towards the club's players between September 2019 and February 2021. While the Professional Footballers Association found 56 abusive Twitter posts in November 2020, 31 of them are still visible, even after having been reported to the social media platform.
The campaign to end online abuse is not the first of its kind. Two years ago the #Enough campaign saw footballers take part in a 24-hour social media boycott in response to the daily racism that sporting players face. These actus of solidarity are powerful, however conversations need to continue beyond four days in order to have a true impact.
Online abuse is a daily occurrence for some of the young people we work with and it is clear that more needs to be done to tackle the rise in hate speech. Thierry Henry, who was the catalyst for the boycott after he removed himself from social media, spoke out about the campaign saying that it was 'a start’. But where do we go from here? Online abuse and hate speech is part of a bigger problem. It is a direct reflection of what is happening offline. If we don't tackle the rise in abuse offline it will ultimately continue online. Education is an invaluable first step.