Racism in football: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says social media platforms must be 'stronger' to combat abuse

Marcus Rashford became the third Manchester United player to be subjected to racist abuse on social media in the space of a week after the draw against Arsenal on Saturday, with Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial targeted following the defeat to Sheffield United on Wednesday

January 27, 2021, Manchester, United Kingdom: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager of Manchester United during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: 27th January 2021. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage(Credit Image: © Simon Bellis/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images) 1:26
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the 'absolutely unacceptable' racist abuse directed at footballers, including United striker Marcus Rashford, 'has to be stopped'

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes social media platforms must be "stronger" in the fight against racism after Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford was the latest player to be targeted on the weekend.

Rashford described the racist abuse he received following United's 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Saturday as "humanity and social media at its worst".

Rashford's team-mates Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial were also targeted after the defeat to Sheffield United in a week where Chelsea defender Reece James and West Brom's Romaine Sawyers were subjected to abuse as well.

Solskjaer labelled the abuse "unacceptable", adding the club will work with authorities to try and prevent future occurrences.

"I don't think this is just a matter of footballers or famous people," Solskjaer said. "That gets highlighted, which is in a sense good that we talk about it, but it's unacceptable behaviour. It happens all across society. We will work with the authorities and it has to be stopped.

3:26
On the Super Sunday Matchday show, Clinton Morrison and Darren Lewis explain why they feel black footballers should not have to come off social media and why strong action is needed to combat racist abuse online

"This way of discrimination, on social media, we can't do a lot can we. We have to work with the platforms. They've got to be stronger to make sure we stop this."

Solskjaer also said the individuals sending abuse on social media need "help".

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He added: "We'd all like freedom of speech but this crosses a line of what's acceptable. It's absolutely unacceptable behaviour in 2021.

"The ignorance they show, you feel sorry for them, we've just got to help them. Sometimes you help people by taking away the chance of expressing themselves, especially when they're anonymous."

Social media companies have reiterated their commitments to eradicating online hate and earlier this month Instagram's owner Facebook removed a user who racially abused Brentford forward Ivan Toney.

'Social media boycott would force companies to act on racism'

The general secretary of FIFPro, the world football players' union, believes if players decide to boycott social media platforms, it may force technology giants to act quicker in dealing with racist abuse online.

Despite the impact a player boycott may have, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann believes it shouldn't be up to the victims of abuse to point it out and deal with it and has stressed the need for a wider structural change in dealing with racism in football.

He said: "The players, the athletes, other artists are a huge driver of what actually makes these businesses tick.

"And in that sense, the [technology] companies, I think, have a very, very large obligation, but also a self-interest, to make sure that these people feel like they're safe in these environments, that they actually want to participate.

"And that's, again, something where, yes, change has been slow. The recognition by these platforms has probably not been the way that we would [have] wanted it to be.

"But that's the same that we've seen with these [three-step] protocols right?

"It took players to walk off pitches to realise how big the problem of on-field abuse has been.

Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial were racially abused on social media after Manchester United's 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United 1:38
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also called for social media platforms to take action against anonymous accounts last week in the wake of the racist abuse posted to Manchester United players Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial

"And I don't know if it's going to come to that, but I'm sure that if players started to boycott these platforms, the companies would feel it very, very quickly and they would probably react more swiftly than they currently do."

Rashford did not post screenshots of the abuse he received after the match against Arsenal stating it would be "irresponsible to do so". Instead, he tweeted that it was "humanity and social media at its worst."

Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, described the abuse of Rashford as "despicable," tweeting: "It must stop now."

A host of former and current players in the men's and women's game, including Tyrone Mings, Jordan Henderson, and Karen Carney, joined a virtual government call with DCMS (Department of Digital, Media, Culture, and Sport) secretary of state Oliver Dowden and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston last week to discuss experiences of online hate.

The Online Harms Bill, which is due to come before parliament this year, will require technology companies to treat online abuse the same as discrimination in the street and within football stadia and punish organisations if they breach online duty of care rules.

'Social media companies need to get their house in order over racism'

Black footballers must continue to represent themselves with pride online and it should be up to social media companies to "get their house in order", according to Darren Lewis.

Reflecting on all of the recent incidents, football writer Lewis told the Super Sunday Matchday show: "Victim shaming is never the answer. It should not be incumbent on black men to come off social media because they are receiving racist abuse.

"The onus should be on the social media companies to get their house in order. If they can't, then the footballers need to take action and we must support that action in any way we can.

1:06
West Brom manager Sam Allardyce has questioned whether the Government could do more to tackle racist abuse aimed at people on social media, after Romaine Sawyers was targetted

"The answer is action. We've done a lot of talking for a number of years and it's got us nowhere.

"I say, create the legal framework to be able to punish people. It might be harsh and it might be, in some cases, a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but unless we do that, we are going to go around in circles.

"I would never in a million years suggest black footballers should come off social media. They should stay on, they should be proud to represent themselves and continue doing the work they're doing and continue just existing.

"This is our life. To exist, we have to put up with that kind of thing. We should not have to keep justifying our existence day after day, week after week."

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