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Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea star urges social media CEOs to sit down with players to end online abuse

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Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have implemented several new measures in recent months, such as the ability to limit who can respond to messages, but star players in male and female football still find themselves regularly subjected to racist, sexist and abusive abuse. homophobic, as well as death threats.

Lukaku believes that now is the time for all parties – footballers, social media companies and governing bodies – to come together and take responsibility for ending the abuse.

“The captains of each team, and four or five players, like the great personalities of each team, should have a meeting with the CEOs of Instagram and the governments and the FA and the PFA, and we should just sit around the table and have a big meeting about it, ”Lukaku says.

“How do we attack it right now, not only from the men’s game, but also from the women’s game.

“I think we’re all together and we’re having a big meeting and a conference and just talking about things that need to be dealt with to protect the players, but also to protect the fans and the young players who want to be professional footballers.”

READ: Romelu Lukaku says football racism at “all-time high”

“Football is joy”

Lukaku spoke to CNN Sport about the launch of Chelsea’s ‘No To Hate’ photography competition, which encourages club fans around the world to submit their photos that show the diversity within the Chelsea community and how football can be a unifying factor. against hatred and discrimination in all their forms.
The ‘No to Hate’ campaign was launched in March by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich following the ‘disgusting and unacceptable racist abuse’ Chelsea defender Reece James received in January.
Lukaku has been the victim of racist abuse on the pitch often throughout his career, including during his time at Inter Milan in Italy, and recently told CNN he believes racism in football is at a low level. “record level”.

However, he says the constant struggle against racism is not one he will never tire of.

“At the end of the day, football should be an enjoyable game,” he said. “You can’t kill the game by discrimination. It should never happen.

“Football is joy, it is happiness and it shouldn’t be a place where you don’t feel safe because of the opinion of some uneducated people.”

A spokesperson for the Football Association (FA) told CNN that she had contacted Chelsea directly to set up a discussion with Lukaku. “We always welcome conversations on this important topic with players and others across the game,” the spokesperson said.

Likewise, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) reached out to Lukaku through Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta to try to set up a meeting and find out how they can work better together.

Lukaku points to the collective spirit in the football world that has managed to “stop the Super League in a day” and questions why this same fervor cannot be applied to eradicate abuse from social media platforms.

“If you want to stop something, you can really do it,” he says. “We as players can say, ‘Yes, we can boycott social media’, but I think it’s these companies that need to come and talk to the teams, or the governments, or the players themselves and find some way to stop it because I really think they can. “
In January, major football authorities and governing bodies, including Kick It Out, PFA, Premier League and The FA, met with social media companies to discuss how to tackle hate online.

Between January and March of this year, Facebook removed more than 33 million hate speeches from its platforms, which also include Instagram, of which over 93% were removed before they were reported.

“No one should have to face racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t condone it on Facebook and Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN. “We remove racist content as soon as we see it and respond to valid legal requests to assist with law enforcement investigations.

“We also built the Hidden Words tool to prevent people from seeing this abuse in their comments and in private messages and to encourage everyone to use it. People can also limit comments and requests for private messages during peaks of increased attention.

“Nothing will solve this challenge overnight, but we are committed to continuing our work with the Premier League and others to help protect our community from abuse.”

Twitter did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

“Issue a declaration”

In recent years, incidents of racism among Chelsea supporters have at times resulted in the fan base being tarred with the same brush.

Lukaku says campaigns such as “No To Hate” are an important way to show the world that the larger Chelsea community stands against all forms of discrimination.

“I think right now, from the owner to us, the players, us as a club… we are really making a statement and taking a stand that this stuff should not be tolerated,” said Lukaku.

“Because, in our team, we have a lot of players who represent the club of different nationalities, different skin colors, different religions, also the women’s team where it’s the same thing.

“So I think we as a club, I think we should be an example for the other teams and basically say that, you know, whenever some form of discrimination occurs, the club takes a strong position. and continues whatever is happening in the stands. “

Lukaku joined Chelsea in the Premier League this summer, at a time when some teams and players are still kneeling ahead of games in a united stance against discrimination.

However, the Belgian striker believes that it is possible to do more and questions the effectiveness of the gesture.

“I think we can take stronger positions, fundamentally,” he said. “Yeah, we get down on our knees, but at the end, everyone applauds but … sometimes after the game you see another insult.”

His feelings were echoed recently by Chelsea teammate Marcos Alonso, who said taking the knee “loses a bit of strength” and instead decides to stand up and point the anti-racist message on his sleeve.

Likewise, Chelsea Women player Jess Carter told CNN she began to wonder why players kept kneeling and whether it was becoming an empty move.

“It shows, of course, this unity, that we are still standing and supporting something,” she explains. “But sometimes I’m like, ‘Do people do this just to do it now? Are you doing it just because of your manager? [who] Said you should probably take the knee so you don’t get abused on social media? ‘

“Part of me is always like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ I’m happy that we are trying to stay united and show that there is diversity in this game and that it should be here. We have five seconds before a game to try to send a powerful message – and what could – do us else?

“I’m glad we’re doing it, but do we just keep doing it or do we keep going because it’s important? That’s, to me, the difference and when we stop taking the knee, so what’s the next step? Because racism, homophobia, everything is not going to go away. So what are we going to continue to do after the knee has stopped? “

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