Premier League footballers back 24-hour social media boycott over racist abuse

Tania Snuggs, news reporter

Top Premier League footballers are backing a 24-hour boycott of social media as they demand platforms do more to stop racist abuse.

After several high-profile incidents this season, the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) is encouraging players to stay off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from 9am this morning until 9am on Saturday.

England and Tottenham defender Danny Rose was targeted with monkey noises while playing for his national side in Montenegro last month.

He subsequently claimed he couldn't wait for his career to end in order to escape racism in the game.

Commenting on the PFA campaign, Rose said: "I don't want any future players to go through what I've been through in my career.

"Collectively, we are simply not willing to stand by while too little is done by football authorities and social media companies to protect players from this disgusting abuse."

The PFA is encouraging players to post "#Enough" on their accounts before the boycott begins, with the organisation pledging to do "all we can to put an end to the abuse players face on the pitch and online".

Watford captain Troy Deeney was targeted with racists insults on Instagram earlier this month, forcing him to disable comments on his page, after scoring in an FA Cup semi-final win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

He said: "Any racism in football is too much, and it's essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.

"On Friday we are sending a message to anyone that abuses players or anyone else whether from the crowd or online, that we won't tolerate it within football.

"The boycott is just one small step, but the players are speaking out with one voice against racism enough is enough."

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling, who along with team-mate Ashley Young was abused online following their loss to Barcelona this week, is also among those supporting the campaign.

He said throughout his career he's "developed a thick skin against verbal abuse" but added: "The time has come for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider regulating their channels, taking responsibility for protecting the mental health of users regardless of age, race, sex or income.

"I understand that I am in an extremely privileged position and I am deeply thankful for that but, at the end of the day, we are all human."

Another supporter of the campaign, Arsenal forward Danielle Carter, said: "Football is more popular than it has ever been, but we have a discontented generation of players who won't stand for racist abuse any longer. Enough is enough.

"We want to see social media companies take proper responsibility for racist abuse on their platforms and we want them to find solutions."

Simone Pound, the PFA's head of equalities, said: "Football has the power to do so much good in the world. We must always try to use the sport's popularity and influence to make positive change.

"Over the last few months we have seen a rise in appalling instances of racist abuse at grounds around the world, and on social media. We cannot stand by while too little is done to address this unacceptable behaviour.

"The PFA has always been at the forefront of tackling racism and we are reaffirming our commitment to all of our members."

Earlier this week, following the targeting of Manchester United players, Twitter said it uses "proprietary-built internal technology to proactively find abusive content".

A spokesperson said: "While we welcome people to express themselves freely on Twitter, we do not tolerate behaviour that crosses the line into abuse, hateful conduct or harassment.

"Abuse and harassment - no matter who the victim - have no place on Twitter."