Willian has revealed that he is the latest footballer to have suffered racist abuse online, adding to the depressingly long list of players targeted in recent weeks.
The Arsenal forward used an Instagram story to highlight messages he had been sent by two users on the social media platform, one dating from 27 December and the other apparently sent after he made a late substitute appearance in Thursday’s draw with Benfica.
Reproducing the messages, Willian wrote: “Something needs to change! The fight against racism continues.” He is the second Arsenal player known to have been racially abused this week, with Twitter permanently suspending an account used to target Eddie Nketiah after he posted a training picture before the Benfica game.
“This is another depressing example of what is sadly happening to our players and many others on a regular basis,” an Arsenal spokesperson said. “Social media is one of the ways our supporters across the world can feel closer to the club and our players, but across football and beyond we’ve seen an online world poisoned by hateful, racist and discriminatory words.
“We all need to work together to drive this behaviour out. This includes clubs, governing bodies, fans, media and politicians, but requires the help and commitment of social media companies.”
On Thursday the Arsenal chief executive, Vinai Venkatesham, said online abuse of black footballers was the game’s “biggest problem” and that its impact “cannot be underestimated”. There is a belief within the sport that mandatory verification of social media accounts would make a profound difference but companies have so far pushed back.
Twitter condemned racist behaviour on its platform but confirmed it would not ban anonymous accounts. “We believe everyone has the right to share their voice without requiring a government ID to do so,” it said.
Facebook came under fire this week when, following racist abuse sent to the Swansea player Yan Dhanda via Instagram, the perpetrator was merely banned from sending direct messages for a set period of time. Part of Facebook’s justification was, to the intense frustration of player and club, that “it’s important people have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes”. Facebook has said it does not want “hate and racism on our platforms”.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Lauren James, along with Chelsea’s Reece James and Romaine Sawyers of West Brom, are among others to have received racist abuse recently. Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, said last week that his family had received threats online this season and urged social media companies to act.