‘It must stop now’: Prince William condemns ‘despicable’ racist abuse of footballers

Prince William has urged social media companies to take responsibility for online racist abuse

The Duke of Cambridge has branded the racist abuse directed at footballers “despicable” and said it “must stop now” after Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford became the latest player targeted.

William, who is the president of the Football Association, spoke out on Sunday night after the Professional Footballers’ Association accused social media companies of lacking the willingness to clamp down on racist posts.

Chelsea defender Reece James, West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers and Rashford’s team-mates Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial all suffered online racist abuse this week.

Rashford was then targeted after United’s 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Saturday evening, prompting an investigation from Greater Manchester Police and placing further scrutiny on social media platforms as the government plans to introduce new laws on online abuse in 2021.

William tweeted: “Racist abuse – whether on the pitch, in the stands, or on social media – is despicable and it must stop now.

“We all have a responsibility to create an environment where such abuse is not tolerated, and those who choose to spread hate and division are held accountable for their actions. That responsibility extends to the platforms where so much of this activity now takes place.

“I commend all those players, supporters, clubs and organisations who continue to call out and condemn this abuse in the strongest terms.”

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The PFA called on social networks to demonstrate they are truly committed to tackling a problem it says has been “at crisis point” for two years.

“We have been very clear that social media platforms are an extension of a professional footballer’s workplace,” the PFA said in a statement.

“Every effort must be taken to protect them – and all other users – from racist abuse while using social media. Offline consequences for online hate crimes must be pursued whenever possible.

“Enough time has been given to the networks to demonstrate a willingness to act. We have been at crisis point with this issue for two years. Racism causes trauma and online abuse presents a significant risk to people’s mental health and well-being.

“During our initial meetings with the social networks, they advised us that players could block content that they find offensive. We do not believe the onus should be on an individual to manage the racism they receive.

“With the scale of racist abuse happening on their platforms, we are publicly asking why Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will not prevent users from being able to send explicitly racist terms and emojis? There is no context in which some words are acceptable.

“These steps won’t banish all racist abuse, but it would be a start, demonstrating that the platforms value the diverse membership of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram’s communities. While racist abuse is allowed to continue on each platform, we can only conclude that this is a choice by the companies running the social networks.”

The PA news agency has contacted Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for comment.


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