Podcast 23 – Kate & William join a weekend long social media boycott (Charlotte's Birthday pic.)


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In his role as President of the UK Football Association Prince William and Kate are joining the entire football community and other UK sportsmen and women in a social media boycott this weekend. Why is there a social media boycott and what is the aim of this particular campaign?

The focus of this weekend’s initiative is narrow in that its aim is to show solidarity against racism being experienced by football players - predominantly in the UK football Premier League.

The move is a bid to ramp up pressure on all social media platforms to act against online hate and abuse after a spate of recent incidents that has seen male and female football players bombarded with on-line message of hate based on their race.

Whilst the social media blackout is being driven by UK football teams, players of other sports have come out in support and are joining in the campaign, notably Formula 1 racing champ Sir Lewis Hamilton and 11 other F1 drivers.

European football governing body UEFA is also taking part, as well as Scottish and Irish football, England Rugby, Scottish Rugby, British Cycling, the Rugby Football League, British Horseracing, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the British Lawn Tennis Association (of which Kate is Patron), the International Tennis Federation, and others.

Racism in football in UK and other sports around the World is not a new issue but by all accounts, it has gotten worse over the last year and a half. Manchester United says it has seen a 350% increase in abuse towards its players online in the past 18 months. The club says the comments peaked in January 2021, where more than 400 posts abusing players were recorded, 86% of which they said were racist.

The football anti-discrimination charity Kick it Out, that was established in 1993, are also involved. Kick it Out’s chairman says that the boycott signifies our collective anger. "Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse". Kick it Out added that "by removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change. We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family."

A good PR campaign and every little bit done to stop on-line hate is great. But I wonder if the focus should have been broadened. Not just stopping hate speech to sportsmen and sportswomen, but using the power of all of these high profile and very rich sports clubs and associations to protect everyone. It sort of seems like the football clubs are protecting their own, but what about the regular man and women on the street who experience the same issues and don’t have the platform to get their voices heard. Who is speaking for them?

Twitter acknowledge that the issue is not limited to high profile sportsmen and sportswomen in saying "racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play.”

Kate and William had planned to share content online over the weekend, in the form of a photograph to mark the 6th birthday of Princess Charlotte. It is not clear whether Kate and William will still go ahead and provide a birthday photo of Charlotte to the UK newspapers to print, or if they will simply decide to release the photo after the weekend social media boycott has ended. We shall wait in anticipation of what is sure to be a lovely new photo of Charlotte.

Please keep listening out for future podcasts about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
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