MICAH RICHARDS: If a black player makes a mistake in a game, then goes on social media, it’s there waiting. A banana emoji, a monkey picture or words that make you sick to your stomach – it NEEDS to stop!
- Black players being racially abused online is so depressing but also predictable
- It’s become normal for them to get vile messages if they make an error in a game
- I know from experience that racism is there every single day for a black player
- The next step needs to be consistently identifying those who are offensive
- It cannot continue and the bigots who are doing cannot keep getting away with it
It has been a depressing and disheartening few days. A spate of stories involving players being racially abused on social media has become big news and prompted people to start talking about the subject.
Many will have been shocked by the vile things that were posted to the accounts of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe, along with Reece James of Chelsea and Romaine Sawyers of West Bromwich.
Personally, I wasn’t shocked, nor was I surprised. Sadly, I knew it was coming for them. The same way I knew it was coming for Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham when he missed a penalty in the 2019 European Super Cup.
Marcus Rashford is one of three Man United stars to have recently received racist abuse online
Monkey emojis were posted on Axel Tuanzebe’s Instagram after a loss to Sheffield United
I say this from experience. You might think that racism towards footballers only happens sporadically, but I can tell you now that it is there every single day for a black player.
If a black player logs on to social media after a game in which they have made a mistake or wasted a chance to score, it will be there, waiting. It might be a banana emoji, it might be a picture of a monkey or it could be words that make you sick to your stomach — but it will be there.
It’s got to the point where abuse of this nature is regarded as ‘normal’, but this is as far removed from normal as can be.
The reason why some black players had stopped talking about it is because what they were saying was falling on deaf ears.
Chelsea’s Reece James was also subjected to vile abuse on his social media account
The Chelsea defender shared a screenshot of the racist messages he received on Instagram
I know an article of this nature will have some rolling their eyes and saying, ‘Here we go again’, but we cannot stand by and allow this to continue.
The reaction since my documentary Tackling Racism aired on Sky last week only reaffirmed my belief that the majority of people feel the same way. For a section of the programme, I spoke to a representative from Instagram to see what they are doing to combat the trolls. I understand it is a physical impossibility to remove every piece of racism on their site, but they are aiming to clear it up. I could embrace what they are trying to do.
Now the next step needs to be consistently identifying those who are offensive. I understand there will be resistance to registering for social media by submitting an official document, whether it is a passport, driving licence or something else. People do have a right to privacy.
But knowing a person’s identity is not the same as preventing their right to free speech. We should always have free speech. What some have done, though, is warp the right to free speech and twist that into a narrative that suits themselves so they can spout hateful stuff.
Tammy Abraham was abused after missing a penalty in the 2019 European Super Cup final – when a black player makes a mistake, racial abuse is always waiting for them online
How do social media companies stop that? One thought I’ve had involves putting a tool in place that makes it impossible to type any of these racist phrases, in the same way that predictive text on your phone will automatically correct a swear word.
If someone posts a message that involves racist language, it should flag up immediately with administrators, who are constantly monitoring what is being published. These companies waste no time pulling down sporting content that breaches copyright rules, so why are they slow with racism?
My experiences make me believe that unfortunately half the people who post these kind of messages are racist to the core and will never change. No amount of education will work on them, no amount of explanation will get through. They are bigots and will always be bigots.
The other 50 per cent do not understand the implications of their actions.
Anthony Martial (L) and Romaine Sawyers (R) were also targeted on social media this week
They have seen others get away with it and think they will be able to get away with it, too. They cannot be allowed to get away with it and they shouldn’t be given a platform to cause such hurt.
Marcus Rashford has been targeted because he is doing so much good and has achieved so much in his life that some bitter people cannot accept their own shortcomings.
Axel Tuanzebe would have been targeted because, as a less established member of United’s squad, he was an easy target.
The sorry thing is I could have predicted it. I have seen it all my life. If we want to have real change, we have to work together.
The abuse of black and ethnic athletes on social media can no longer be regarded as normal and predictable. It must stop and we need the social media platforms to help tackle it.