English cricket joins football in social media boycott to combat online abuse

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Move is a “show of solidarity” in stand against abuse, racism and harassment

English cricket has announced that it will take part in a social media boycott this weekend in a “show of solidarity against online abuse”.

Leading English football clubs and organisations released a statement on Saturday to announce that they would boycott all platforms from 3.00pm on Friday, April 30 until 11.59pm on Monday, May 3. The ECB, the 18 first-class counties, the eight women’s regional teams and the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) confirmed on Wednesday that they would follow suit, following discussions this week.

“In taking part in this boycott, we want to show solidarity with football and amplify its message that nobody should have to suffer abuse, racism or harassment on social media because they play, or are involved in professional sport,” the statement said. The boycott spans the majority of the fourth round of County Championship fixtures this season, with nine games starting on Thursday.

Several England cricketers have been sent racial abuse via social media, with Jofra Archer posting screenshots of abusive direct messages on Instagram last year. “It isn’t ever acceptable and should be addressed properly,” he said at the time. Earlier this month, Moeen Ali was racially abused by a political activist via Twitter.

The ECB has unveiled several recent measures aimed at tackling discrimination within English cricket over the last 12 months, and acknowledged the need for “meaningful change” last year following testimony from players and officials about their experiences of the game. Similar revelations have continued to emerge, and this month, Lawrence Booth wrote in the editor’s notes of Wisden: “By not taking a knee, cricket raised a finger… if cricket’s response to racism is one of expedience rather than repudiation, everyone loses.”

Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, said: “As a sport, we are united in our commitment to fight racism and we will not tolerate the kind of discriminatory abuse that has become so prevalent on social media platforms.

“We’re proud to add our voice to all those across sport who are sending the message that more can, and must, be done to eradicate online hate.

“Social media can play a very positive role in sport, widening its audience and connecting fans with their heroes in a way that was never possible before. However, players and supporters alike must be able to use these platforms safe in the knowledge they do not risk the prospect of facing appalling abuse.”

Rob Lynch, the PCA’s chief executive, said: “The PCA is fully supportive of the social media boycott as cricket stands together with football and other sports in a show of solidarity against online abuse.

“Social media companies have to do more. Our members are often victims of horrific online abuse with little or no punishment for the perpetrators and this has to change.

“A unified silence from players and the wider game is a powerful stance to show that our members will not allow social media companies, which have brought so much benefit to the game, to continue to ignore and fail to prioritise the need for appropriate legislation in protecting people against online discriminatory behaviour.

“We continue to support our members while working collaboratively as a game to lobby the social media companies and the government through the Online Safety Bill for swift action in making social media a safer space for our members and wider society.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98