Ex-Norwich City stars say social media giants must do more in abuse fight

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It's been a week since the nationwide social media blackout, but has anything really changed? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Scyther5

Two former Norwich City footballers have called for tougher action by tech giants after social media abuse resumed just days off after a high-profile boycott.

The move saw every professional football club in the country, from the Premier League downwards, participate in the nationwide demonstration, raising awareness of the online racial abuse players are subjected to.  

Despite the widescale support, less than 48 hours after the boycott ended, players from clubs, including Manchester City and Swansea City, reported racial abuse on social media.

Former NCFC players, Adrian Forbes and Iwan Roberts, supported the boycott but said there was still a long way to go.

Adrian Forbes. Picture: Archant

Adrian Forbes. Picture: Archant

Mr Forbes, who played for the Canaries between 1996 and 2001, said: “It was an idea that would go some way to potentially affecting change in the key social media companies to stand up and take some ownership of what goes on.

“It was great to see not just the football world but other sports and key individuals join in the boycott.”

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He urged tech companies to put on a stronger front over the coming weeks, and take firmer action against those who post racist comments, as well as a longer boycott in the future.

“They need to take a real tough stance against it. 

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“It really is heartbreaking, but sadly it’s the world we live in and I truly don’t believe we will ever eradicate it. All we can do is fight against it and try and educate the next generation to a place where they don’t see colour.”

His former Carrow Road team-mate, Mr Roberts, called the boycott a "step in the right direction" but still had serious concerns.

Norwich City Football Club legend Iwan Roberts. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich City Football Club legend Iwan Roberts. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

“It was great to see everyone come together last weekend with the social media blackout, but do I think it will change things? Sadly not," he said.

"Until these social media companies can monitor and police who is [posting], I can’t see it stopping anytime soon.

"Only catching and outing these people will change things." 

The club also urged its supporters to back the move and do the same, while Archant also showed its support and turned off its PinkUn social media channel for the duration.

Also, the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News did not post about football. Its websites and matchday live feed ran as normal. 

The boycott came following a string of well-publicised episodes which have seen players targeted by abusers, including siblings Reece and Lauren James, of Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, and Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, Naby Keïta, and Sadio Mané. 

Repeated incidents have led to staunch criticism of tech companies, with Arsenal legend Thierry Henry among those to quit social media over a lack of action against abuse and racism.

Di Cunningham, founder of LGBTQ+ Norwich City supporters' group Proud Canaries, has dedicated her life to fighting for equality and individuality in sport.

Di Cunningham spoke at Norwich City icon Justin Fashanu's induction into the National Football Museu

Di Cunningham - Credit: Archant

She explained that the impact of abuse stretches far beyond those involved with the sport.

"For me and other Proud Canaries it was an opportunity to show solidarity with all those impacted by online abuse and prejudice," she said.

“While anonymous trolls have licence to poison our feeds with impunity, nothing will change. We need adequate regulation of social media comments now.”

Finally, writer and columnist, Rebecca Fisher, who blogs under the name The Coastal Mummy, also showed her support by speaking out and calling for an end to online abuse.

Rebecca Fisher with her husband Jonny, and their daughters Elsa and Cleo. Mrs Fisher blogs under the

Rebecca Fisher with her husband Jonny, and their daughters Elsa and Cleo. Mrs Fisher blogs under the name The Coastal Mummy. Picture: FISHER FAMILY - Credit: Archant

The mum-of-three, of Burnham Market, said: “I think going off social media in a way of protest is a great way to get a point across.

“Posting about going against abuse and discrimination online reaches more audiences than other ways, not to mention it is a safer way.

“We are in 2021 - there is no room for abuse, discrimination, or racism.”

The social media boycott took place from 3pm on Friday, April 30, to 11.59pm on Monday, May 3.

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