Online Racial Abuse out of Control in Football

22 April 2021

In recent months, there has been a major increase in racial abuse of professional football players on social media. Cases include football players such as Anthony Martial, Reece James, Marcus Rashford, Antonio Rüdiger, and many more. Racial abuse is often triggered by events on the pitch and disappointing results, such as when Paul Pogba, football player of Manchester United missed a penalty during a crucial game. After the match, he became the target of hate speech and racial insults on social media.

Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solksjaer noted that people who engage in racial abuse people online hide behind fake identities. There is truth in this. People are able to create a Social Media account, such as a Facebook or Instagram account, create a fake name and send racist messages to anyone, without consequences. There can be good reasons for anonymity, for example when people fear consequences in expressing themselves, particularly in less-democratic societies. However, in the case of illegal hate speech and racist abuse, anonymity cannot be invoked to protect people’s identity.

It is generally felt that Social Media platforms have not done enough to address these problems. in regards to helping this problem. More and more policymakers and stakeholders are calling for urgent action, including legal obligations. It is high time, online racist abuse is challenged effectively. It cannot be that so-called “fans” hide behind anonymity in the “virtual” world when if they would be uttering racist statements in the “real” world, they would face the consequences. What is illegal offline should be illegal online.

Together we must make sure that everyone feels accepted in our society.

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