Wilfried Zaha: Crystal Palace winger wants 'strong action' from social media companies on racist abuse

Zaha has decided he will stop taking a knee before games becoming the first Premier League player to do so; the winger said in a statement: "We should be encouraging better education in schools, social media companies should be taking strong action against people who abuse others online"

Wilfried Zaha decides to stand instead of taking a knee ahead of Palace's match with West Brom. 0:44
Wilfried Zaha opted to stand instead of taking a knee ahead of Crystal Palace's match with West Brom, saying it has just become part of the pre-match routine

Wilfried Zaha has called for greater efforts towards education on racial inequality and says social media companies should start taking "strong action" over abuse after he opted against taking a knee before kick-off of Crystal Palace's 1-0 win over West Brom.

Since Project Restart last summer, players, officials and staff prior to kick-off at Premier League and EFL matches have performed the gesture in protest against racial discrimination.

The Black Lives Matter slogan was present on Premier League players' shirts during the restarted 2019-20 season and was changed to a patch with the words No Room For Racism in reference to the league's own anti-racism initiative.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has told Sky Sports News that players will continue to take a knee until the end of the 2020/21 campaign.

Zaha, who is the first Premier League player to choose not to kneel before games, has been subject to online abuse on multiple occasions.

A 12-year-old boy was arrested last summer for racially offensive messages which were sent to the forward on Instagram and he was given education lessons following the incident.

Speaking at the Financial Times Business Summit last month, Zaha confirmed that he would stop kneeling because the gesture was "degrading" and encouraged players to "stand tall" in defiance of racism.

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In a statement, the midfielder said: "My decision to stand at kick-off has been public knowledge for a couple of weeks now.

"There is no right or wrong decision, but for me personally I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and at the moment it doesn't matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse.

"I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes at the Premier League and other authorities to make change, and I fully respect that, and everyone involved.

"I also fully respect my teammates and players at other clubs who continue to take the knee.

preview image 1:32
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says discussions will take place with players at the end of the season regarding the taking of a knee before kick-off

"As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking strong action against people who abuse others online - not just footballers.

"I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall."

Brentford have recently decided as a club to stop taking a knee before matches, with forward Ivan Toney, who was subject to abuse online earlier this season, telling Sky Sports News: "We are being used as puppets."

Bournemouth midfielder Arnaut Danjuma has said he will continue to kneel before games and criticised those who describe it as a waste of time after the club said it would no longer be taking part in the anti-racism gesture. Earlier in March, Derby also confirmed Wayne Rooney's players and staff would not be kneeling prior to games going forward.

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FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has called on social media platforms to introduce identification in a bid to prevent online hate

A number of professional footballers have been targeted with online abuse this season. In February, Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah, Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger and Reece James, Manchester United Women's Lauren James and Manchester United's Axel Tuanzebe were among those abused on social media platforms.

Zaha's team-mate Patrick van Aanholt was targeted after Crystal Palace's goalless draw with Manchester United earlier in March, and Instagram removed the offending user from its platform.

Following a rise in the levels of abuse, Instagram has said it will take tougher measures to clamp down on discrimination on its platform, including through the removal of accounts to prevent abusive messages from being sent by users.

The Online Harms Bill, due to come before the government this year, will aim to hold technology companies to greater levels of accountability concerning online abuse and punish organisations if they breach online duty of care rules.

DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) secretary Oliver Dowden has said the government will change the law to make these companies accountable for any malicious content.

Wilfried Zaha 2:23
Soccer Saturday's Clinton Morrison discusses Zaha opting to stand instead of taking a knee ahead of Palace's match with West Brom

'Zaha is still highlighting racial inequality'

Former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison told Soccer Saturday:

"It's up to him, he decides what he wants to do and it is totally up to him.

"It is a difficult one, everyone is different and that is what a lot of people will say, that the message is wearing off and when they are going to take the kick [off] they are forgetting to do it.

"I still think that people are going to carry on doing it because people are [feeling] strongly about it.

"Just here in the Bournemouth game this afternoon, Arnaut Danjuma took a knee while the whole of the team stood up, so it depends.

"I don't play football at the moment but I have platforms like Soccer Saturday where I can speak about it [racial inequality]. I'll keep speaking and trying to educate people.

"Wilfried Zaha is a big personality so a lot of people are going to be talking about that this weekend, so he is still highlighting it because people are still going to be talking about it.

"It is just about trying to educate youngsters and when Paul Merson tells me that his young boy is being educated by it that is a big step forward and that is what we want to see."

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This is the message from Sky Sports presenters and reporters, who have united in supporting a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of online hate and abuse on social media

Hodgson: We're all behind Zaha

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said:

"I read this statement, which was very well put together and articulate, and I think it's a statement that all of us would agree with.

"We're trying to get the message across by taking a knee but Wilf is not alone now in being a person who thinks taking a knee is becoming a bit of a ritual rather than a massive statement.

"He has chosen himself to take this step, which puts him out of the bubble and gives him the chance to make the statement he made to show how strongly he disapproves of what's been going on and what is still happening, unfortunately, in terms of abuse and racial abuse in particular.

"We're all behind that, he cleared it with the rest of the players and the rest of the players decided to keep taking a knee to show that they care too but fully respected that [Zaha] wanted to go one step further.

preview image 4:41
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"I would be unbelievably surprised if there was anyone who suggested for one minute that he's doing what he's doing because he doesn't care.

"It seems to me that he's doing it because he cares too much or wants to show he cares as much as everybody else and perhaps even more because he's making a strong statement that he doesn't think at the moment that the things we are doing are having quite the same drastic effect as perhaps they had right at the beginning.

"I don't think he's alone on that, I've heard it mooted on several occasions, but if anyone doubts Wilf's commitment to the cause of anti-racism, then I can assure them that they have no reason to do so."

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