Bullying, in it’s traditional form, has been going on since the beginning of time. That was when your bully had to face you. To say what he or she thought to your face in front of an audience and back up his attacks. Probably to physically assault you too.
These days bullies can do their bullying from the comfort of their bedroom, lounge, office desk. They can do their bullying without ever having to face their victim or show their face. They can literally be nameless and faceless and they can say whatever they like. They can say things they would almost definitely never say to your face too.
Sadly Cyber bullying is on the rise and over 34 percent of students acknowledge that they have experienced cyberbullying (cyberbullying.org). This said all schools and most youth organisations have a cyber bullying policy with clear guidelines and consequences.
The same, sadly, cannot be said in professional sports. The online abuse levelled at professional sports stars, staff, coaches and referees is on the rise.
How bad is it?
According to Kick It Out’s study, there have been an estimated 134,400 discriminatory posts this season related to the Premier League alone.
That equates to:
- 16,800 discriminatory posts a month
- 551 of them per day
- 1 abusive mention every 2.6 minutes
Strangely, when sports stars get abused on social media, they are often advised to turn the other cheek. Let’s just break that down for a minute.
Turn the other cheek. That’s it. That’s often the advice. Scroll on. Ignore it. Move on.
Whilst that is sound enough advice (Do not feed the trolls) it does beg the question – Why should they?
If the comments levelled at sports stars and pros were made to young adults and children there WOULD be consequences. So why are there not any consequences if people make these comments to adults? Do comments not affect adults? Because you’re an adult you should be able to deal with them? To ignore them?
Just for clarity the below (and there were thousands to choose from!) are some of the comments that have been said:
But sports stars should just ‘turn the other cheek’
The main problem is there is no line. No consequence for their actions. If there is no line the level you can go to in terms of abuse will just go up and up.
“It’s freedom of speech” Say many. It’s not about freedom of speech though. It’s about common decency. And if there is no barometer for what that should look like then it will only increase and keep increasing. It has to be stamped out.
Policing online trolling and bullying is VERY difficult. There are just so many messages, so many people, so many faceless accounts. What that doesn’t mean however is that sports pros and clubs should just turn the other cheek.
The funny thing about all this is that is always a ‘social media policy’ for players and staff. Guidelines players and staff have to follow and to adhere to. Yet there is NO policy for supporters of the sport. That HAS to change.
Cyber bullies need to be tackled and addressed head on. Earlier this week, inspired by the last tweet above levelled at one of their players injured during a game, Elite League hockey club Coventry Blaze released their own statement regarding social media postings http://www.coventryblaze.co.uk/news/club-statement-re-social-media-postings-20181008
Whilst it still remains tough to police and regulate ‘questionable’ posts the Blaze have, at least, made their feelings on the matter very clear.
” As an organisation we will not tolerate social media communications which are clearly inappropriate and offensive towards any member of the club or which go beyond the realms of an acceptable nature. Personal insults or comments that show little regard for the well being of any member of the club are simply not acceptable
It’s often easy to post an opinion on social media channels without a second thought given to any possible consequences or the well being of the person to whom it may be directed.
We would encourage all supporters to please consider that any post on any platform becomes a public record, whether intended as something light-hearted or not, posts which might appear harmless to you, could be construed as offensive by others, or have a severe impact on the well-being of others.
The Blaze reserve the right to, have, and will, deny entrance to our games to any individual who does not show consideration of the above.”
The Blaze have publicly come out in support of their staff including denying entrance to their home games. This is a great example of a sports club CLEARLY stating where the line is. It is never going to address every online troll but it is certainly a step in the right direction and something all sports clubs and leagues should be doing.
It is time for sports organisations to stand up in support of their staff and players. It is time for their to be a clear line in the sand and it is time for social media platforms to get better at policing online bullying.
As individuals all we can do is shout louder than the trolls. To make more noise than them, to report them and keep pushing for basic respect and decency towards professional sports men and women.