Thierry Henry: Social media blackout shows we are finally standing up to racism & hate and tech giants will notice
THIS is an historic week.
Derek Chauvin was convicted in the George Floyd case.
The fans won the battle against the Super League.
And now English football has united to boycott social media and try to tackle all forms of hatred and discrimination.
It’s win, win, win – this is what I was hoping for when I announced I was coming off all the platforms and this is what I was talking about – the strength of the pack.
English football coming off social media is a powerful statement.
If John Smith from Portsmouth and Steve Jones from Liverpool aren’t happy, the companies will be: “OK, cool.”
They don’t care about me, either. They don’t care about individuals. They care about big companies that are going to be upset with them.
I thought that if we all did it together, you put people in a situation where they have to answer — just like what happened with the ESL.
Now look — the whole of English football isn’t happy with you. The social media platforms — what have you got to say?
Now those guys are going to have to come out and talk.
Social media companies are really happy about what Liverpool and Manchester United generate out there.
But when they are asked to do something on the other side, they don’t listen.
The measures that the platforms have come up with — stuff about multiple reports, muting, blocking — is nowhere near what people want.
That is why the whole of English football has said: “Really? That’s the best you’ve got?”
Football fans, people everywhere, they are realising the power we can have if we all come together, no matter what the issue is.
I was over the moon about what Patrick Bamford said after the Leeds vs Liverpool game on Monday, when he asked why everyone could not unite against issues like racism as they had against the ESL.
He didn’t have to bring up the issue of racism, he could simply have addressed the question about the Super League.
I thought: “It’s not your community, but I feel like it does affect you, Pat Bamford, and that it affects football.”
But for so long we’ve wondered when real action was going to be taken, what the big guns were going to do. Now we know and I’m very happy.
The justice system acted in America. The fans acted. And now the big guns of English football are acting, the Premier League and clubs.
If the fans had not come together, that Euro League would have happened. The fans spoke and they had to listen.
Now English football is speaking on a much more important issue.
Everything that tries to destroy the beauty and the happiness of our game — we should come together and fight it.
Whether that is anti-Muslim behaviour, anti-women, anti-gay people, anti-black people.
I’m an Arsenal fan but this week we were football fans.
In doing this, people in English football are acting, quite simply, as human beings.
Football is a powerful tool. Fans just realised the power that they have, for real, and thank God for that.
This is my happiest moment. Football stands for something. Not only money. It is not just take, take, take. It is also about giving. Now it is really trying to tackle issues.
I played in a lot of countries. The power of the Premier League and English football is second to none.
I’m French. France gave me everything, professionally and personally. Wearing the jersey of the national team was more than an honour.
But I live in London. In my second home in my second nation. Sometimes people don’t realise the power they have.
How many Premier League teams were in that Super League? Six out of 12. What does that tell you?
Right now, English football is standing for something more than football, more than just having a good league.
You are looking after your players, your game and your society. That speaks volumes.
For the first time, people are doing something which might cost them money.
What happened with the ESL was about standing up for values — and so is this.
The whole of English football is doing it just because of shared values. You are creating a legacy.
The most powerful image I have seen recently was the one of Mouctar Diakhaby, the Valencia player who was racially abused, in the stand while the game continued.
He was in the stand alone, watching.
He is not alone any more. That is what English football is saying.
Let’s be clear, this is only a start. Let’s not fall asleep.
The Super League lasted, what, 48 hours? What about racism and other forms of hatred? Hundreds, thousands of years. They are the toughest issues to tackle in life.
But we can create a bubble and say, “When we go on social media, can you be respectful? That is all we are asking.”
I know it will never be an ideal world. But we can always try to have an impact, to change it. And this is a massive start.
Well done to everyone involved. We are acting, instead of talking. That is a different ball game.
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