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Premier League footballers boycott social media in protest at racist abuse

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That is the strapline being championed on Friday by professional footballers in England and Wales as they stage a 24-hour boycott of social media platforms, in protest against the lack of action being taken in response to racism.

Multiple players have been subjected to abuse this season both from the stands during matches, as well as through messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

However, this campaign — led by England’s Professional Footballers Association (PFA) — sees the players’ union appeal to social networks and the sport’s governing bodies to take a tougher stance on those found guilty of such racism offenses.

A plethora of current and former footballers have backed the campaign, including Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin, as well as former England midfielder Matt Le Tissier and ex-Arsenal Women captain Alex Scott.

Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford has changed his profile photo on Twitter to the symbol of the campaign.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford is one of many to have backed the #Enough campaign.

Watford captain Troy Deeney, who announced that he had disabled comments on his Instagram profile after receiving racist messages in April, was one of many Premier League stars to launch the boycott.

Deeney said: “My team-mates and I have been on the receiving end of well documented abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people both on social media and on the pitch.

“Any racism in football is too much, and it’s essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.

“On Friday we are sending a message to anyone that abuses players – or anyone else – whether from the crowd or online, that we won’t tolerate it within football.”

He added: “The boycott is just one small step, but the players are speaking out with one voice against racism — enough is enough.”

During England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro in Podgorica in March, several players were subjected to racist chanting. Tottenham defender Danny Rose, one of those to face the abuse, declared afterwards that he “can’t wait to see the back of football.”

“I don’t want any future players to go through what I’ve been through in my career,” he stated as he co-launched the #Enough campaign, which runs until 9am BST on Saturday morning.

Raheem Sterling used his goal celebration during England's 5-1 win over Montenegro to address the alleged racist chanting that he and his teammates had been subjected do.
On 3 April in Italy, Juventus’ teenage striker Moise Kean suffered racial abuse during a Serie A match against Cagliari, only for teammate Leonardo Bonucci to partially blame Kean for provoking the opposition supporters — a stance for which he has been widely criticized, with Manchester City star Raheem Sterling reacting to Bonucci’s comments on Instagram, stating: “All you can do now is laugh.”
Sterling has become something of a figurehead in the fight against racism in recent months. After he was allegedly racially abused during a game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Sterling published a post on Instagram, highlighting the treatment received by black players, criticizing sections of the media for helping to “fuel racism” through their portrayals.

Following the game in Montenegro, former England midfielder John Barnes spoke to CNN, explaining that the issue was one of deep-rooted perception.

“Until we change our perceptions of what black is, which means looking down to the lowest echelons of society and looking at black people and treating them exactly the same way we treat white people in the same situation, then nothing will change,” Barnes told CNN.

“Throughout history over the last 300 years, we have been told — and we continue to be told — that there is a certain group of people that are more worthy than us — that’s what we have to challenge. Until we start challenging that in society, not just in football, nothing will change.

“It was good that Sterling mentioned that (media treatment) but more importantly you have to look at the perception people have of black people generally, not just black footballers and the influence the media plays in formulating those perceptions.”

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has said: “The time has come for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider regulating their channels, taking responsibility for protecting the mental health of users regardless of age, race, sex or income.”

His teammate Ashley Young was the subject of racist tweets following his team’s Champions League defeat to Barcelona on Tuesday.

While the club has promised to “take the strongest possible action” against any perpetrators, anti-discrimination charity Kick it Out released a statement questioning the social platforms.

“Again, we’re left asking Twitter the same question,” it said. “When will you take serious action to tackle the rampant discrimination on your platform?”

Just this month in England’s Championship, Derby County midfielder Duane Holmes was abused in the dugout during a game against Brentford, while Wigan Athletic’s Nathan Byrne was targeted by an abusive message following a draw against Bristol City.





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