By David Williams
Thierry Henry insists sport’s social media boycott must be only “the start” of action against online abuse as South Wales Police continue their investigations into more racism directed at a Swansea City player.
The boycott – which started at 3pm on Friday and ran until 11.59pm on Monday – saw a coalition of football’s largest governing bodies and organisations, including the Football Association, Premier League and EFL, among those to go silent on social media in a show of solidarity against online abuse.
European governing body UEFA also joined in, as well as Scottish and Irish football, England Rugby, Scottish Rugby, British Cycling, the Rugby Football League, British Horseracing, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Lawn Tennis Association, International Tennis Federation and others.
Arsenal legend Henry, who quit social media in March in a stand against abuse online and how it’s regulated, has called for an end to anonymity on the platforms.
“It’s a start because people talked about it,’ Henry said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. ‘I’m still off it by the way.
“At the end of the day, if I stayed on it and talked about it on it, I don’t think people would have wanted to talk to me about it.
“So I came off it, a lot of people came to talk to me about it, I talked about it, and it created a wave.
“I’m more than happy that people realised what’s at stake not only in football, not only because of racism, because of bullying, harassment and how you can get abused on there.
“When I saw the reaction personally of football — that was amazing. And the reaction of everybody not only football because it seems like in the past few days everybody came to support it.
“I was really happy about it, I always mentioned the strength of the pack.”
Henry’s comment after police confirmed they are investigating after Swansea striker Morgan Whittaker suffered “vile racist abuse” following Saturday’s game against Derby.
The 20-year-old was targeted after scoring against his former club and becomes the fourth Swans player to be racially abused on social media since February.
Yan Dhanda, Ben Cabango and Jamal Lowe have all suffered racial abuse, and the latest incident happened as English football was part of a mass social media boycott against sustained and spiralling online abuse.
“Swansea City is saddened, angry and appalled by vile racist abuse received by Morgan Whittaker via social media following Saturday’s game against Derby County,” read a statement from the Championship club.
“The abuse in question has been reported to South Wales Police and the club is assisting them in their investigation.
“The fact that this has happened across a period where clubs, players and stakeholders have come together for a boycott of social media for this very reason, again shows just how much work still needs to be done.
“Morgan is sadly the fourth Swansea City player to suffer such abhorrent and disgraceful abuse online since February – a damning indictment on the world we live in.
“As a club we will continue to strive for change, urging social media companies to take strong action and implement real change on their platforms that will enable its users to open their accounts and not have to worry about what they might find.
“Chief executive Julian Winter recently wrote to both Twitter and Facebook, the latter replying with examples of how they try to combat online abuse. But with vile incidents appearing on a daily basis, stronger action is clearly required.
“Morgan has the full and unwavering support of everyone at Swansea City, and our message remains clear. Enough is enough.”
A statement from SWP read: “South Wales Police is investigating the origin of racially motivated social media posts aimed at a Swansea City footballer following the club’s match against Derby County this weekend.
“South Wales Police has designated football liaison officers who work with clubs throughout the force area to help prevent and deter crime and anti-social behaviour.
Something has to change.
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) May 4, 2021
“Tackling hate crime has always been a priority for South Wales Police – this behaviour is something that will not be tolerated in our community.
“The force takes hate crime seriously and works closely with those involved in football to raise awareness of hate crime amongst players and supporters.”
Swansea took a stand against online abuse and discrimination on April 8 by not posting any social media content for seven days.
The club called for social media platforms to introduce tougher policing and punishments for those found guilty of sending online abuse.
Birmingham and Rangers quickly supported Swansea’s stance of a seven-day social media boycott, and on Friday much of the sporting world followed suit.