The Gunners are considering steps to protest offensive messages regularly sent from fans to players, often without consequence
Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham has said “nothing is off the table” in their fight against social media abuse targeting players – including an outright boycott of popular platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.
The Gunners have formed a #StopOnlineAbuse campaign in light of club legend Thierry Henry quitting all platforms in response to abuse, and while their action plan does not yet call for them to go dark on social media, that dramatic step remains an option.
Footballers around the globe have spoken out this year over increasingly toxic, and in many cases racist, messages sent to them by angry fans.
What has been said?
“I would say that nothing is off the table,” Venkatesham told Sky Sports. “We have taken the approach that we feel is appropriate and use the power of the following that we have on social media to send, what we think, is a really powerful message around our campaign.
“We all have to acknowledge this has gone too far.
“There is a really dark side to social media, and we cannot accept that. I don’t see that getting any better, I see it getting worse and we have to find a way to solve it. I’m not saying this is straightforward to fix.
“My biggest fear is that this type of behaviour becomes normalised. My biggest fear is you will have young, black, footballers who will just say, ‘Being abused racially on social media goes with the territory of being a Premier League footballer.’ That is unacceptable and we cannot stand by and allow that to happen. It is 2021 and we need to use this as a wake-up call.”
What is the #StopOnlineAbuse campaign?
Venkatesham announced that Arsenal would take steps to better support their players emotionally through workshops and meetings while advocating for preventative steps such as social media companies requiring people to attach their identification to all accounts.
Anonymity, Venkatesham said, was part of the reason hate has become so widespread.
Who else has spoken out?
Henry is one of many football players to have openly criticised the harmful effects of social media culture, joining active players such as Antonio Rudiger and Marcus Rashford.
The former striker’s decision to walk away entirely from social media with a public statement marked a new step in raising awareness about the issue, which some athletes have claimed is not being taken seriously enough by companies such as Instagram and Twitter. The platforms have responded by pledging to add anti-abuse measures.
Henry said in his announcement last Friday: “From tomorrow [Saturday] morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright.
“The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There has to be some accountability. It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous.
“Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”