Thierry Henry leaves social media until racist abuse addressed

Thierry Henry is leaving social media until the platforms until they can properly regulate racism and bullying on the site, he said on Friday. 

The calls for better oversight on social platforms are growing and soccer players have been increasingly subject to racist abuse on and off the pitch. The former Arsenal striker said he will leave the platforms starting Saturday. 

Henry wants social media regulation 

Here is Henry’s full statement: 

“Hi Guys. From tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright. The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability. It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous. Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.” 

Henry stepped down from his head coaching position with MLS’ Montreal Impact last month citing family reasons. When the team debuted at the MLS is Back tournament last summer, Henry took a knee at kickoff that last until the 8:46 mark of the first half. It represented the amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck in the minutes before he died, as stated in an initial criminal complaint. Prosecutors have since put the time at at least nine minutes

He was one of two Black head coaches in the league and used social media to speak out about Floyd’s death and call for changes. 

Racism in soccer

Henry’s move off the platforms comes after Jude Bellingham, a 17-year-old midfielder for Borussia Dortmund, shared screenshots of abusive comments on his social media posts. There were monkey and feces emojis and derogatory messages about his mother. He captioned it, “Just another day on social media…” 

Similar instances have happened to a long list of other soccer players, including Patrick van Aanholt, Kemar Roofe and Rhian Brewster this month alone. Arsenal midfielder Willian shared screenshots of abuse last month and wrote, “Something needs to change! The fight against racism continues.” 

The English Football Association (FA) called on social media companies earlier this month to do more about abuse on the platforms. FA chief executive Mark Bullingham told Sky Sports:

“They should take responsibility that they are the publishers of their content and they, actually, are the only ones that have the technology to act, to prevent it even being published, and to enable the authorities to take swift action when it is.

“They should be doing more and we’re continuing to put pressure on them to do that.”

NCAA tournament athletes receive death threats

The broader issue has been going on for years. U.S. men’s national team star Reggie Cannon faced backlash and threats with FC Dallas for kneeling during the anthem and has since left for Boavista. He told The Guardian death threats part of life of the U.S.

“Threatening to kill your family, threatening to show up at your house, threatening to do vulgar things to you, that I can’t say. It is, unfortunately, part of the society that America is today, especially when Trump was in charge. Now we have moved past that.”

Social media threats and abuse extend beyond soccer. Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell posted screenshots of threatening messages after the Buckeyes were upset by Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA men’s tournament. Illinois star Kofi Cockburn shared inappropriate comments he received after the title favorites were bounced out by Loyola Chicago. 

NBA and NFL players have also received death threats after big games.

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