Premier League Plans Social Media Boycott To Battle Online Racism

Premier League clubs are planning to take part in a social media blackout between May 1 and May 3 in response to continued online racial abuse of players. The clubs are set to boycott social media for a 24-hour period around their games, and the league itself will go dark during the entire three-day period.

Plans for what has been dubbed the “Weekend of Action” have been set in motion amidst a rise in online racism. Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote to the clubs, saying that “there would be no usual football content” during the blackout weekend. The standard communication channels would instead be used to “put pressure on the social media companies” and “drive awareness of the racist and other discriminatory abuse” that keeps appearing on social media platforms.

England’s Birmingham City and Swansea, as well as Scottish champions Rangers, already held week-long boycotts. Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out and several Premier League managers have backed the idea as well.

Last week, Aston Villa’s defender Tyrone Mings spoke out about being a target of racist abuse on social media. Tottenham had earlier condemned the “abhorrent” online bullying of Son Heung-Min, following the team’s 3-1 defeat by Manchester United, promising to “hold a review” of its social media platforms.

Liverpool players Naby Keita, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Sadio Mane were also victims of racist comments and emojis on Instagram after their Champions League 3-1 first-leg loss to Real Madrid. Earlier in March, former Arsenal superstar and French international Thierry Henry closed his Twitter account, saying that the “sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore.”

Instagram owners Facebook responded to the recent outrage at the blatant racism on its platform by saying that it was “committed to tackling abuse.” For its part, the UK Government threatened all social media with hefty fines should they fail to stamp out online racist abuse.