Foul play: how racism towards black footballers is moving online

Black footballers are dealing with a rise in vicious abuse on social media. Why?Imagine you’re a prominent black footballer. Once, the racist abuse you received would have come from the terraces, and as soon as you escaped the terraces you escaped the abuse. But now the abuse comes home with you. Comments flood your social media accounts. Sometimes you turn on your phone after a game to hundreds of notifications. Sometimes thousands. It doesn’t stop. Abusers tag your name alongside hateful single-word insults. Or send you grotesque images. Or post pictures that suggest the type of violence they would like to visit upon you. It is relentless.When you first start receiving the abuse, you find it disturbing, but soon you adjust. You report it to the social media companies, hoping for help, a solution, but their responses disappoint you, and the attacks continue. This is just how your life is now, as it is for the Watford forward Troy Deeney and the former Juventus star Eniola Aluko. It is a tax on your visibility as a well-known black footballer. But it is different for your friends and family. They see strangers calling you a monkey beneath the family portraits you share on Instagram and they are horrified and confused. How could someone who’s given so much to the game he loves become so despised by its fans? Your family become afraid of the fury, of your position under this hateful magnifying glass. They worry that, one day, someone might put down their phone and try something far worse. Continue reading…