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Taking the knee ‘the right way’ to make stand against discrimination – PFA boss

West Ham United v Manchester United – Premier League – London Stadium
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

There should be “no debate” on whether players should continue to take the knee, according to union boss Maheta Molango.

The gesture has been part of Premier League football since the competition resumed in the summer of 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, following the death of black man George Floyd at the hands of police in the United States in May of that year.

Its critics say it has political overtones, and link it to the Black Lives Matter movement, but Molango, the Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive, says it is simply an expression against discrimination of all forms.

“For us it’s not about politics. I think some people are willing to drive this into a political discussion – it is not,” he said at the Leaders Week sports business conference in London.

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango

Maheta Molango is the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (Handout/PA).

“This is about, is it right in the 21st century that somebody needs to hear homophobic comments in the stadium and women are treated differently to men?

“It’s not just about racism. Racism is just one part of it, but it is just unacceptable in the 21st century that certain people behave in a certain way.

“England has led the line in sparking this discussion, about race and other things and I’m very proud to be representing people who have had a discussion that other countries do not debate at all.

“For us, there is no debate. It is not about politics, it is just a stand against discrimination and it’s the right way to communicate it to people.”

England’s Raheem Sterling waves

England player Raheem Sterling has been targeted by racists online (Mike Egerton/PA)

It comes as a Channel 4 prepares to air a documentary showing the scale of online racist abuse directed at black footballers.

Research commissioned by the channel found Raheem Sterling was subjected to 78 per cent more abuse on Twitter than Harry Kane in the months leading up to and during the Euros, with 54 per cent of this being racist. The abuse peaked significantly during the championship.

Signify, who provided the data study, found Twitter had only removed a fraction of the abuse and abusive accounts targeting players. Months after the offensive tweets and accounts were reported, Signify recorded that only 27 per cent of the posts had been taken down.

The figures showed that from the start of the 2021 season technology platforms were no more effective at removing racist abuse than they were back in July after the Euros final.

The data reveals that of the 103 accounts found to have been posting racist abuse against 21 Premier League players across Instagram and Twitter, only 6 per cent were removed.
Instagram removed just 3 out of 84 racist accounts, meaning it had failed to act on 96 per cent of such accounts.

​Twitter removed just ​2 in 19 racist accounts, failing to act on 84 per cent.

A spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said its platforms “do not profit from hateful and abusive content”.

They said: “No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to continuing our work with the industry and Government to help keep our community safe from abuse.

“We’re committed to cooperation with UK law enforcement authorities on hate speech and will respond to valid legal requests for information in these cases.”

A Twitter spokesperson said “abusive and hateful conduct has no place on our service”.

They added: “It is important to note that there was some discrepancy between Signify’s definition of abuse and our own. Given this, we have invited Signify to meet with us.”