Alan Shearer joins campaign against online abuse as athletes plan social media boycott

Credit: PA

Newcastle and England football legend Alan Shearer has joined a movement against racist abuse towards athletes online.

Major sports including football, rugby and cricket will unite in a social media boycott over lack of action to tackle online abuse.

The boycott across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels will start at 3pm on Friday through until 11.59pm on Monday night.

Athletes, broadcasters and sponsors are involved in the plans too, which comes amid a rising tide of racist and sexist abuse directed on various social media platforms.

Many are calling on the platforms to do more to stamp out abuse, with harsher punishments for those found guilty.

NUFC legend Alan Shearer has taken part in videos for the Premier League talking to his friend and fellow former footballer Ian Wright about the type of offensive messages he is sent on a regular basis by people online.

Shearer recalls old football chants that fans used to sing, which when he looks back, make him feel very uncomfortable.


The sport’s authorities kicked off the boycott plans last Saturday night, in response to a rising tide of online hate aimed at players, managers and pundits.

Clubs across the Premier League, EFL, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will switch off their accounts.

Governing bodies’ central accounts – such as those belonging to the Premier League, the Football Association, the WSL, the EFL, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the League Managers Association and the Football Supporters’ Association are also involved, as are anti-discrimination bodies Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card.

In North East football, Sunderland Head Coach Lee Johnson agreed that more needs to be done to stamp out abuse online. He says social media companies need to take account for not better regulating their platforms.

Middlesbrough FC have also come out to throw their support behind the campaign saying that enough is enough.

Earlier this month Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who is from Sunderland, handed his social media accounts over to an anti-cyberbullying in protest over the lack of action taken by platforms on racist abuse.

He returned to twitter to share a post ahead of the sport wide boycott.

Rugby union

The Rugby Football Union stands in solidarity with the football and cricket authorities, and its accounts for England Rugby, the Allianz Premier 15s, the Championship and GB7s will all suspend activity, it was confirmed on Thursday.

Clubs in the Gallagher Premiership announced they were boycotting social media the previous day, with the support of the Rugby Players’ Association.

The Newcastle Falcons have come out in solidarity.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden suggested that racist abuse will be among the harms that social media companies have to stamp out.

Writing in newspapers, he said: “Under the legislation, if social media companies do not keep their promises to users by, for example, failing to remove racist abuse, they will face severe sanctions.

“We could see fines of up to ten per cent of annual global turnover. For a company such as Facebook or YouTube, that could be billions.”

He added that the threat of enforcement would get social media companies to act.