Professional footballers in England and Wales have announced a 24-hour social media strike to protest racist abuse. The boycott aims to pressure both the social media and football officials to do more against racism.
Football stars pledged to boycott social media for 24 hours starting on Friday morning, in a bid to push against racism both online and on the stands. Non-white players in Europe and elsewhere face racist comments online and racist chants and gestures while on the pitch.
The move was only "the first step in a longer campaign to tackle racism," the Professional Footballer's Association (PFA), a union of football players in England and Wales, said in a statement.
The PFA announcement comes after several high-profile incidents, such as mimicking monkey chants and hurling racist abuse at Tottenham defender Danny Rose during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro last month. Last week, a video of three Chelsea fans showed them calling Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah a "bomber," according to the DPA news agency.
Rose later said he could not wait to stop playing because of racism.
"I don't want any future players to go through what I've been through in my career," he was quoted as saying in the PFA statement on Thursday.
"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."
Ahead of the Friday boycott, the players will post an image marked with a word #Enough. The gesture serves to pressure social media giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, to combat racist comments and content. It also serves as a warning to football officials who ignore such behavior from the fans.
"Throughout my career I have developed a thick skin against verbal abuse, justifying it as just ‘part of the game' but the time has come for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider regulating their channels," Manchester United's Chris Smalling said.
"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," he added. "We have to take a greater stand against discrimination of all kinds."
Watford captain Troy Deeney also decried "abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people" both off- and online.
"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," he said.