Sport organisations come together for social media boycott

30 Apr 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

Sport organisations will begin a boycott of social media at 3pm on Friday 30th April in a bid to spark action on racist, sexist, and otherwise discriminatory abuse suffered by athletes on the various platforms.

English football’s biggest organisations announced the boycott last week, which will take place across the bank holiday weekend, ending at 11:59pm on Monday 3rd May. The organisations called for better filtering, quicker blocking and swifter takedowns of offensive posts, as well as improved verification processes to identify those involved in spreading hatred and abuse.

Since the footballing bodies announced the boycott in a joint statement, a host of other sports organisations, media outlets, and brands have joined the action. 

Football clubs across the English and Scottish league structures, in both men’s and women’s competitions joined the Football Associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the action, as well as the likes of the LMA, PFA, and Kick It Out. Since then, European football’s governing body UEFA - which will host the semi-finals of its UEFA Women’s Champions League this weekend - has also joined the boycott.

Meanwhile, The ECB announced it would join the boycott, along with the men’s and women's county and regional sides playing this weekend, with the Professional Cricketers' Association also joining.

Rugby unions across England, Wales, Scotland, and France, along with Premiership clubs, and the Rugby Players Association will boycott, as will rugby league’s RFL, Super League Europe, Rugby League World Cup 2021, and players association. British Cycling, British Horseracing, GB and England Hockey, England Netball, and the LTA will also join.

Media outlets such as talkSPORT, The Guardian, Sky Sports and BT Sport will also boycott social media platforms this bank holidays weekend, along with brands including Nationwide and adidas.

Ahead of the boycott, the Premier League posted a conversation between Ian Wright and Alan Shearer discussing racism in a bid to ‘highlight the seriousness of what we are demanding’ from social platforms.

Manchester United, meanwhile, conducted a study in to online abuse suffered by their players and found an uptick of 350% since September 2019. 86% of the posts detected were racist, while 8% were homophobic or transphobic, with a a peak in January 2021 where over 400 abusive player posts recorded.

Similarly, BT Sport launched a complimentary 'Draw The Line' campaign, after it's own research found that more than one in ten social media users - over 5 million in total - had received some form of online abuse.

In a joint statement from football organisations announcing the boycott last weekend, Sanjay Bhandari, Chair, Kick It Out, called for action, and urged the government to ‘hold its nerve and keep its promises to regulate’, referring to the Online Safety Bill which would see legislation brought into place to make social media platforms more accountable for what is published on their sites.

Bhandari said: "Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game. By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change.

"We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family. We need the Government to hold its nerve and keep its promises to regulate. The Online Safety Bill could be a game changer and we aim to help make that happen. There should be no space for hate and everyone can play their part. If you watch, work in or love the game, join in." 

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