SCORES of chaplains with many of the country’s leading sports clubs joined last weekend’s mass social-media boycott to address online racist abuse.
From Friday afternoon until midnight on Monday, members of Sports Chaplaincy UK halted their messaging on Facebook and Twitter as part of the campaign. The blackout was supported by a range of clubs, sponsors, and sporting bodies from soccer and rugby to cricket and tennis, as well as TV, radio, and newspapers. Prince William, as President of the Football Association, and the F1 motor-racing world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton also joined the shutdown.
Sports Chaplaincy UK has about 600 chaplains in the home nations, including chaplaicy to 72 out of the 92 clubs in the English football leagues. Its chairman, the Revd David Chawner, who is chaplain to Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, said: “Overall it seems to have had great deal of support. In itself, I don’t think any of us expect that one weekend is going to change the world, but it can start to change attitudes and it is part of a longer and ongoing campaign to get this issue addressed.
“We work very closely with many of football’s governing bodies, and we want to stand alongside them. It is important to them and it’s important to us, both from a pastoral and a spiritual perspective. Abusing people is not God’s work: it’s the very opposite. We want to stand alongside that, and be clear in our support for it.
“As a Christian organisation, we hold to the intrinsic value and dignity of every individual as created and loved by God, irrespective of background, race, or religion. Therefore, Sports Chaplaincy unashamedly aligned itself with the sporting world in this weekend’s social-media boycott, thus affirming our commitment to see bullying, hatred, and racial discrimination confronted and appropriately dealt with.
“There is a lot more to do yet, but it does seem to have registered with the social-media companies, and it has created a lot of chatter around, which is what we need. We want to see that moving forward.”
On Monday, when the shutdown ended, the Premier League clubs released a statement: “We now call on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to use their power to affect change and ensure there are real-life sanctions for online hate. We invite these social media companies to respond to our requests for action.”