By Damian Spellman, PA
Kyle Walker-Peters says more needs to be done to prevent online racist abuse.
Southampton demanded action from social media platforms after calling in police, following online abuse of the defender.
The full-back was targeted with a series of offensive replies, including monkey emojis, to an Instagram post following Sunday’s 0-0 Premier League draw at Manchester United.
One racist term was used in reference to United substitute Alejandro Garnacho, who had been left writhing in pain after a challenge by the Saints player late in the game.
Walker-Peters took to Instagram and said: “Proud of a hard earned point in a tough game at Old Trafford. Especially since we feel we could have had a bit more.
“It was a big effort from everyone. Thank you to the travelling supporters especially who made the journey to help push us on.
“On a personal level, the racial abuse I received is something that no player or person should ever have to experience.
“We need to be better, and this is bigger than just football. More needs to be done to prevent this from happening time and time again.
“Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support since, I appreciate each and every one of you.
“Finally, to @garnacho7 it would never be my intention to injure a fellow professional. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope to see you back in action as soon as possible.”
#SaintsFC has issued a statement following racial abuse being directed towards some of its players online:
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) March 13, 2023
An official statement from the Saints read: “In February 2021, the club made a statement about one of our young players receiving abhorrent racial abuse following a match against Manchester United.
“More than two years on, we find ourselves in the exact same position: disgusted and disappointed in the behaviour of those online who lower themselves to abusing players for the colour of their skin.
“What is equally frustrating is the lack of meaningful action in those two years from the social media platforms who allow such hatred to breed and fester.
“As we have said before, Southampton Football Club fights every day to remove such people from our sport and our community in order to protect our players, our staff, Southampton fans and those football supporters around the world who recognise and celebrate the diversity that makes football special.
“We have forwarded the messages concerned to Hampshire Police in keeping with our normal processes when dealing with these cases.
“We have also reported these posts to the social media platforms involved.
“We can only hope that they finally pay attention to what continues to be a major problem and that we do not find ourselves repeating these words in another two years’ time.”
Southampton’s stance was backed by the Football Association.
We strongly condemn the racist online abuse that continues to be directed towards players across our game.
We urge social media companies and authorities to take the strongest possible action and we will not stop challenging this issue until tangible changes are made. https://t.co/en2gwTZIG8
— The FA (@FA) March 13, 2023
A statement on the FA’s official Twitter account read: “We strongly condemn the racist online abuse that continues to be directed towards players across our game.
“We urge social media companies and authorities to take the strongest possible action and we will not stop challenging this issue until tangible changes are made.”
Meta, which owns Instagram, is in contact with Southampton over the matter and has removed the offending comments from Walker-Peters’ account.
A spokesperson said: “We don’t want racist abuse on Instagram, and we’ve removed a number of comments for breaking our rules.
“Over the last few years, we’ve launched several ways to help protect people from having to experience abuse in the first place, including our Hidden Words feature which lets people filter offensive comments and DMs – and we recently started turning this on by default for people with creator accounts.
“No one thing will fix this overnight, but we’ll continue to work to help protect our community from abuse and respond to valid legal requests to support police investigations.”
However, anti-discrimination body Kick It Out has urged social media companies to go further in the battle against racist abuse.
A statement read: “We are appalled to hear reports of online abuse following Southampton FC’s Premier League fixture at Manchester United this weekend.
We are appalled to hear reports of yet more online abuse following the weekend’s fixtures.
Our statement in full 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/PCOCpONdCR
— Kick It Out (@kickitout) March 13, 2023
“Last month, we reiterated our call for social media companies and the government to act swiftly to introduce meaningful reforms that protect those who play, watch and work in football. And yet, the silence from these platforms remains deafening.
“Social media companies must urgently introduce meaningful reforms to protect people online, including a default option for hate filters being ‘on’, meaning people only see that content if they switch the filter ‘off’. We know that social media companies have the technology to introduce these measures and yet, they appear unwilling to act. Until they do, the sad reality is that online abuse will continue to run unchecked through the game.
“Kick It Out will continue to work closely with our partners across football to provide support to the victims of discrimination and to ensure that the perpetrators of abuse are held to account for their actions.”
Meanwhile, Hampshire Police confirmed they had been asked to investigate a complaint from the Saints.
A spokesperson said: “We are working with Southampton FC following a report of racist abuse directed at a player following their game against Manchester United. We are liaising with the club and enquiries into this matter are ongoing.”
Southampton took similar action in February 2021 after then 19-year-old midfielder Alex Jankewitz received abusive messages online after being sent off on his first Premier League start in a 9-0 mauling at the hands of United.