Wave of abuse directed at players on social media is part of a deep societal crisis but perhaps football can provide a solution
Four decades ago, before his England debut, Cyrille Regis was sent a bullet in the post by a racist fan. In 2008, shortly after being appointed as Chelsea’s manager, Avram Grant was deluged with dozens of antisemitic emails. These days, as footballers continue to be subjected to racist abuse on Twitter and Instagram, the temptation is to wonder whether anything has changed except the method of delivery.
The recent wave of social media abuse – directed primarily at prominent black footballers – follows a well-worn pattern. The incidents begin to cluster with a grisly momentum: Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe on two separate occasions, Anthony Martial, Reece James, Romaine Sawyers, Alex Jankewitz and Lauren James. Statements are issued. Governing bodies, broadcasters and public figures clamber over each other to offer their condemnation, often by way of a fancy social media graphic. And then, like any wave, the anger subsides. The news cycle gets bored. Racism carries on, and so does everyone else. Until the next wave, at least.