Another day, another situation where soccer fans feel like they can be racist. This time, racist tweets and Instagram posts were directed at Manchester United’s Paul Pogba after his penalty was saved in a game that ultimately ended in a 1-1 draw against Wolves.
In a statement, Manchester United condemned those sending racist posts and praised the fact that the “vast majority of our fans condemn this on social media too.” Pogba’s teammates came to his defense, including Marcus Rashford, who had a bit of an issue with Pogba taking the penalty and seemed to feel like he should’ve taken the shot.
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) August 20, 2019
Newly signed center back Harry Maguire called for social media companies to give up the ability for people to be anonymous by verifying each user.
Disgusting. Social media need to do something about it… Every account that is opened should be verified by a passport/driving licence. Stop these pathetic trolls making numerous accounts to abuse people. @Twitter @instagram https://t.co/bzow073aTw
— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) August 20, 2019
I’m not sure too many people trust social media companies with their passport or drivers license info, and there’s a point to be made about keeping the internet private and anonymous. But in a time where plenty of people abuse their right to be anonymous and, spout off racist comments because they think they’re protected behind a screen, some version of verification to prove who you are doesn’t sound like that bad of an idea.
However, Maguire is directing his message at the wrong people. It’s naive to think social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram will voluntarily overhaul their sites to incorporate a verification method just out of the kindness of their hearts. This would cost them both significant amounts of money and users, and they’re only going to take that step if they’re legally required to do so.
This comes just a week after Chelsea fans racially abused striker Tammy Abraham after his penalty was saved and Chelsea lost the UEFA Super Cup to Liverpool. Chelsea has a history of racist and homophobic behavior from their fans, resulting in a charity game to raise money for various Jewish groups to fight antisemitism. The game, while a nice concept, occurred three days after the Premier League season and in the middle of Chelsea’s preparation for the Europa League Final. Many fans weren’t thrilled about the game, even if it was for a good cause.
Raheem Sterling has been subjected to racial abuse over his career by much of the media in addition to fans, and Sterling brought attention to the media’s treatment of him by comparing similar articles showing how an English tabloid writes about him (or another black player) and how they write about a white player. The media has somewhat made progress on that front over the last year, but it hasn’t stopped fans being racist.
England Women’s National Team coach Phil Neville called for a six month social media boycott, also noting at the time that rape threats and death threats directed at England winger Karen Carney were “absolutely disgraceful.” People within soccer can do what they want. but until social media companies actually care about preventing racism (and they won’t), the same stories about racism will still be written.