England sports bodies unite to boycott social media over racial abuse

No room for racism

LONDON: The bodies in England overseeing cricket, rugby and tennis announced Wednesday they would be joining their counterparts in football’s weekend boycott of social media in a show of solidarity against racism and discrimination.

A coalition of football organisations, including the English Football Association and Premier League, had announced earlier that they would go "silent" on their social media channels from 1500 GMT on Friday until 2359 GMT on Monday.

The action follows racial abuse hurled at a number of high-profile footballers online in recent months, prompting calls for tougher action from social media giants.

Broadcasters BT Sport and Talksport have announced they will be taking part in the protest along with sportswear giant adidas.

The weekend’s boycott follows social media blackouts by Swansea, Birmingham and Rangers football clubs in recent weeks. German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim said on Monday they would also be joining the boycott

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) along with all 18 First-Class Counties, the eight Women's Regional teams and the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) will collectively be taking part in the social media boycott from 15:00 GMT on Friday 30 April to 23:59 GMT on Monday 3 May.

Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive officer, said: “As a sport, we are united in our commitment to fight racism and we will not tolerate the kind of discriminatory abuse that has become so prevalent on social media platforms.

“We’re proud to add our voice to all those across sport who are sending the message that more can, and must, be done to eradicate online hate.

“Social media can play a very positive role in sport, widening its audience and connecting fans with their heroes in a way that was never possible before. However, players and supporters alike must be able to use these platforms safe in the knowledge they do not risk the prospect of facing appalling abuse.”

Rob Lynch, PCA chief executive, said: “The PCA is fully supportive of the social media boycott as cricket stands together with football and other sports in a show of solidarity against online abuse.

“Social media companies have to do more. Our members are often victims of horrific online abuse with little or no punishment for the perpetrators and this has to change.

“A unified silence from players and the wider game is a powerful stance to show that our members will not allow social media companies, which have brought so much benefit to the game, to continue to ignore and fail to prioritise the need for appropriate legislation in protecting people against online discriminatory behaviour.

“We continue to support our members while working collaboratively as a game to lobby the social media companies and the government through the Online Safety Bill for swift action in making social media a safer space for our members and wider society.”

England Rugby 
England Rugby's solidarity action will cover all RFU-run social media channels including England Rugby, Allianz Premier 15s, Greene King IPA Championship and GB7s.

Clubs competing in the Allianz Premier 15s and the Greene King IPA Championship will also join the blackout.

It was announced later Wednesday that all 12 of England’s top-flight rugby union clubs would be joining the boycott as part of its support for BT’s new campaign to tackle online hate, called Draw The Line.

“This is the first stage of a multi-million pound BT campaign to step up and stand against hate speech and abuse on social media,” Premiership Rugby said on its website.