Social media has brought fans closer than ever to their favorite players, but for others, it has provided an open channel to anonymously send abusive and hate messages, which the companies that run these platforms seem not to be. wanting or not being able to stop.
It’s gotten so bad that if companies like Facebook and Twitter don’t start to seriously tackle the problem, Hayes says, then she may consider some footballers considering suicide.
“I have to go through it every day,” Hayes tells CNN’s Amanda Davies. “I have to deal with young people who are maybe the flavor of the month, so to speak, online, and then treated so despicably the next day, maybe even by the same people – and then the impact that has on. them and their internal struggle translates into massive underperformance.
“I think social media, while it’s a force for good in so many ways, I think if that doesn’t change fast enough, we’ll be talking about some of maybe people’s most serious endings. commit suicide with some of the abuse they experience online.
“I see what it does to their mood, I see what it does to their state of mind, I see what it does to their confidence.
“But it cannot be denied that there are vulnerable athletes with mental health issues in all areas that – as a result of a bad game or being a woman, or being gay, or be of a different color or ethnicity – have a vile, abusive experience of the posts that could certainly put them in a position where they could consider this. “
These fears were echoed by former Premier League footballer Anton Ferdinand during a recent Home Affairs Committee investigation into online abuse, in which he spoke alongside two other former players, Lianne Sanderson and Marvin Sordell, of the online abuse they suffered.
“There is a mental health issue with not being able to escape it. My concern is, what are social media companies waiting for?” He asked. “Are they waiting for a high-level footballer to commit suicide or for a member of their family to commit suicide? Is this what they are waiting for?
“Because if they wait for that, it’s too late. It comes down to if [social media companies] really want to change? So far their words are what they want but their actions are different. “
Following the high-profile abuse by some England players on social media after the Euro 2020 final in July, Facebook released a statement describing the abuse as “heinous”.
In that statement, Facebook said that between January and March of this year, it removed more than 33 million hate speeches from its platforms, which also include Instagram, of which over 93% were removed before they were released. reported.
“No one should have to face racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t condone it on Facebook and Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Sport.
“We remove racist content as soon as we see it and respond to valid legal requests to assist with law enforcement investigations.
“We also built the Hidden Words tool to prevent people from seeing this abuse in their comments and in private messages and to encourage everyone to use it. People can also limit comments and requests for private messages during peaks of increased attention.
“Nothing will solve this challenge overnight, but we are committed to continuing our work with the Premier League and others to help protect our community from abuse.”
In its response to CNN, a Twitter spokesperson pointed to a blog post posted on its website on August 10.
“We condemn racism in all its forms – our goal is to become the most diverse, inclusive and accessible tech company in the world, and to lead the industry to prevent such odious views from being seen on our platform, “the statement read.
“We have been appalled by those who have targeted England football players with racist abuse after the Euro 2020 final.
“While our automated tools are now able to detect the majority of abusive Tweets that we delete, we also continue to take action from the reports. “
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“When is he going to stop? “
In some cases, like with Thierry Henry, players say the abuse is the reason they closed their accounts.
Another player to follow suit recently was Chelsea Women defender Jess Carter, who said she had to shut down one of her social media accounts after being “annihilated” by comments after her matches.
“I think the sad thing is you’re just not surprised,” Carter told CNN Sport. “It’s just become a point where it’s like, ‘Ah, there’s another one and another.’ It’s just more maddening to think to yourself, “When is this going to end?”
“You know, it’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and think, ‘They should be doing this or they shouldn’t be doing that.’ When are we going to put more measures in place to end it?
“For some people it’s easy to just get rid of it and keep going, but not everyone can and it affects you.”
Carter admits that she is among those most affected by abuse and at one point said she began to “question everything you’ve worked for all your life.”
“I don’t think other people realize it either because, if you did, I don’t think you would,” she says of the abusers.
Carter, teammate Magdalena Eriksson and Hayes spoke to CNN Sport about the launch of Chelsea’s “No To Hate” photography contest, which encourages club fans to submit their photos that showcase the diversity within the Chelsea community. Chelsea and how football can be a unifying factor.
The ‘No to Hate’ campaign was launched by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovic h, following the ‘disgusting and unacceptable racist abuse’ received by defender Reece James in January.
The multi-pronged initiative aims to educate about anti-discrimination, both in local schools and at the club, to increase support for those in Chelsea who are victims of racist abuse and to help monitor abuse that players receive on social networks.
As recently as last week, a man identified by Chelsea was indicted by the London Metropolitan Police after an investigation into racist, anti-Semitic and hateful tweets.
While Swedish international Eriksson has yet to delete any of her accounts, she admits to having significantly limited her use of social media in order to avoid any negative messages.
Eriksson has been romantically involved with her Chelsea teammate Pernille Harder for several years now and says she is aware that people can send homophobic comments.
“So I’m just trying to [say] like, ‘OK, I’m going to stay away from this. I’m not going to look for my name. I’m not going to look for it because I know it might be there, ”she told CNN.
“And I think the mere fact that I’m thinking like that is just another sign that it’s not OK. It’s just not OK. It’s gone too far.”
“You should be able to go on your own social networks and not be afraid of what you are going to see,” she says.
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“Means so much to me”
Eriksson has won numerous titles nationally and internationally, but her most famous moment off the pitch came during the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
At the time, Eriksson says she didn’t think there was anything particularly special about it.
She had just helped Sweden beat Canada in the round of 16 when she spotted her partner and Danish international Harder, also wearing a Swedish jersey, in the stands at Parc des Princes stadium.
Eriksson approached her and the two shared a celebratory kiss.
The photos immediately went viral on social media – “I had no idea pictures were taken,” Eriksson says – and the moment has become one of the lasting images of this Women’s World Cup.
“It was like a brief moment, then a few hours later I just saw that I was getting tagged and all that, I get new followers, like things are happening that don’t normally happen to me,” said she declared. Laughs.
“In two days it exploded and yes I don’t know how many new subscribers and maybe a lot of hate too, but during the World Cup I tried not to read comments or read anything it would be. .
“So luckily I didn’t see it. “
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Eriksson struggled with the idea that this moment that she considered quite normal could be so iconic for so many people.
Soon after, however, she was moved by the overwhelming number of messages and stories from people who had seen this image and had been reinforced or comforted by it.
“In a way, it’s like, what’s the matter?” Eriksson asks. “I mean, we’ve been open for a long time, me and Pernille, two women kissing. It’s not the biggest deal.
“But I also understand the impact it has and how special it is, and for me what I always take with me is just to hear how much it helps others to feel. accepted with who they are and who they want to be and if they don’t have the support at home or around them, let them look at us and feel the support through us.
“So that’s what matters so much to me to see and experience and it makes me want to continue to be open, to have confidence in who I am and who I love.”