Lukaku calls for players’ summit with social media companies to tackle racism

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Romelu Lukaku says footballers can do more to tackle racism than just taking the knee and wants social media companies to meet with players to help combat the issue of online abuse.

The Chelsea striker says the gesture alone is not enough as players are continuing to receive abuse.

“I think we can take stronger positions,” Lukaku told CNN.

“We are taking the knee, everybody’s clapping, but sometimes after the game you see another insult.”

The 28-year-old added: “We should just sit around the table and have a big meeting about it – how we can attack it straight away, not only from the men’s game, but also from the women’s game.”

Premier League players have taken the knee before games in a protest against racism and discrimination since the competition restarted in June 2020 after a three-month suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lukaku’s team-mate Marcos Alonso revealed earlier this week he would no longer make the gesture as he felt it was losing its impact and will instead point to the ‘no to racism’ badge on his shirt.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha adopted a similar stance last season.

In April, football clubs, players, athletes and a number of sporting bodies held a four-day social media boycott in the hope of encouraging companies to take a stronger stance against racist and sexist abuse by users.

Lukaku believes the issue can be successfully tackled if everybody works together.

“If you want to stop something, you can really do it,” he added.

“We as players, we can say: ‘Yeah, we can boycott social media,’ but I think it’s those companies that have to come and talk to the teams, or to the governments, or to the players themselves and find a way how to stop it because I really think they can.

“The captains of every team, and four or five players, like the big personalities of every team, should have a meeting with the CEOs of Instagram and governments and the FA and the PFA.

“Football is joy, it’s happiness and it shouldn’t be a place where you feel unsafe because of the opinion from some uneducated people.”

The Football Association said it has approached Chelsea to arrange a dialogue with Lukaku.

“We always welcome conversations on this important subject with players and others across the game, and we have reached out to Chelsea directly to arrange a discussion with Romelu should he wish to,” an FA spokesperson said.

The PFA has also contacted Lukaku via Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta about a potential meeting and continues to speak to players and social media companies about the issue.

It has also provided research to social media companies about the prevalence of online abuse, which was discussed at the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into online harm earlier this month.

Fans found guilty of abuse could face lifetime bans from all Premier League stadiums under new anti-discrimination measures implemented from the start of the 2021-22 season.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, announced last month that it had introduced features designed to restrict abusive messages during “sudden spikes”.

The measures were introduced in response to the racist abuse received online by Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho after their penalty misses in the Euro 2020 final.

Twitter says automated tools introduced in February have helped the platform immediately identify and remove about 13,000 tweets up to August – of which 95% were identified proactively.

However, the Professional Footballers’ Association has called on Twitter to stop taking the “easy” option to tackle abuse aimed at players online, citing new research that showed a 48% rise in racist abuse sent to players on the social media platform during the second half of last season.

Source: BBC