Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has called for football’s most influential figures to meet with social media CEOs over the issue of online racist abuse that has seen dozens of players targeted
The issue of racism in football has risen to prominence especially over the last 18 months, with players regularly taking the knee to show their anti-racism stance.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all targeted for sickening racial abuse from online trolls after missing spot-kicks in England’s Euro 2020 final penalty shootout defeat to Italy.
There was even a social media boycott organised for an entire weekend of Premier League football from clubs and players in response to the increasing levels of abuse.
But players are still finding themselves victim of harmful comments online and Lukaku, speaking as part of Chelsea’s newly-launched No To Hate campaign, wants a collective effort to help bring an end to such abuse.
“The captains of every team and four or five players with big personalities should have a meeting with the CEO of Instagram, the government, the FA and PFA,” he told CNN.
“We should just sit around a table and have a big meeting about how we can attack it straight away, not only from the men’s game but also from the women’s game.
“We need to talk about the stuff that needs to be addressed, to protect the players but also to protect the fans and young players that want to be professional footballers.”
Lukaku returned to Chelsea for a second spell after two successful seasons in Italy with Inter Milan, scoring 64 goals in 95 appearances.
Despite helping the Nerazzurri win their first Scudetto since 2010-11, Lukaku was often a victim of racist chanting from the stands when playing for Inter.
He even endured a fractious relationship with the club’s ‘Ultras’ after they wrote a letter insisting monkey chants directed at him were not racist.
“We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist,” the letter, written in English and Italian back in 2019, said.
“You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a REAL problem.”
When quizzed about his social media habits nowadays, the 28-year-old admits that he simply blocks out all online abuse by posting his thoughts and paying no attention to responses.
But he believes it down to the companies powering social media accounts to find a way to limit the impact it has on players, who have been left “harmed’ by the barrage of negative online comments.
“I don’t really read comments,” he added.
“I just post and then leave because I don’t think it makes sense.
“This stuff can really harm you. We see a lot of people harming themselves because of social media abuse and it’s not just footballers.
“I think personally that if you want to stop something, you can really do it but they don’t and it’s a vicious circle.
“As players, we can boycott social media but it’s these companies that have to come and talk to the players or to the governments and find a way to stop it because I really think they can.”