Wilfried Zaha has revealed that he was forced to report 50 social media accounts after being racially abused earlier this month, and says he is scared to look at his direct messages because of what they contain.
The Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast footballer has been targeted with large amounts of racially abusive messages since becoming a professional, and revealed racist messages and imagery that he was sent before the club’s Premier League match against Aston Villa earlier this month. West Midlands Police subsequently arrested a 12-year-old boy in connection with the incident, who has been released under investigation.
But despite raising awareness of the abuse he was receiving and reporting it through the Premier League’s new dedicated online system for dealing with racism, Zaha has continued to find himself subjected to messages based on the colour of his skin.
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“Even after I reported the abuse from the 12-year old, I reported 50 accounts,” Zaha told CNN.
“And I got racially abused after the stuff that I got before and it’s like, what happens after that account gets blocked?
“Then they just make a new one straight after. I feel like with everything that we do in life, with everything we register to, we have to give some sort of ID, so why is it not the same with Instagram? Why is it not the same with Twitter?”
Zaha wants social media companies such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to do more to protect users from all kinds of abuse, and hopes to use his platform to help bring change that means people are no longer subjected to such ebay methods of anonymous racism.
“I’ve had racial abuse all my life but it’s a thing where for right now, I’ve got a platform where I feel like if I can make a change, I’ll try,” added Zaha, who has 1m followers on Instagram and 888,000 followers on Twitter.
“For black footballers for instance, being on Instagram is not even fun for us any more. You’re not enjoying your profile because every time I’m scared to even look up my direct messages any more because it could be filled with anything.
“I don’t even have Twitter on my phone any more because it’s almost certain that you’re going to get some sort of abuse.”
The 27-year-old expressed his shock at learning that a 12-year-old had been arrested in relation to the racist messages that he received, while Palace manager Roy Hodgson backed the club’s academy product to use his position to successfully bring about change, which Zaha admits he wants to do. However, having had time to think about the incident he reported towards the start of the month, Zaha remains at a loss to understand how someone so young could be capable of using such racist language.
“How is a 12-year-old even thinking about that? Where has that hate come from?” he added.
“I understand he’s a 12-year-old and it’s sad that it’s a 12-year-old, but you got to be held accountable for the things that you say.
“The stuff that you said to me, ain’t just ‘Yeah, you black this…’ This is Ku Klux Klan. I didn’t even know about that stuff at the age of 12.”
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