Phil Neville’s Solution For Racism In England Is Laughable

The England women’s national team manager gets an ‘A’ for effort, but he’s completely missing the point.

Paul Pogba was targeted on Twitter by racist assholes after he missed a penalty kick for Manchester United on Monday, the third player to receive similar abuse in the past week in England. On Wednesday, it was Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham; on Sunday it was Reading’s Yakou Méïté. 

It’s disgusting and heartbreaking — it needs to stop.

But Phil Neville’s plan isn’t going to solve anything.

Neville, the former Manchester United and Everton fullback and current England women’s national team manager, suggested a boycott of social media for six months to “send a powerful message” to, well, I’m not really sure. 

“I’ve lost total faith in whoever runs these social media departments, so I just wonder whether now as a football community, in terms of really sending a powerful message, is: Come off social media,” Neville told The Guardian. “Six months — let’s come off social media. Let’s see the effect that it has on these social media companies, whether they’re really going to do something about it.”

Yep, that’ll solve racism.

Neville’s desired boycott would have little if any impact on racism or any other hate speech on social media. Neville might not realize it, but Twitter already has rules of conduct in place that prohibit the use of hate speech and abuse/harassment. The site could certainly do better to enforce those policies, but what would a boycott accomplish? 

Never mind the impossibility of actually convincing people to boycott social media, even if Neville somehow convinced every Premier League player and club to stop using Twitter, the impact would be negligible on Twitter’s bottom line. Sports fans often live in their own bubble where they assume everyone watches sports, but the reality is most people around the globe do not much care for soccer, even if it is the most popular sport in the world. Twitter would no less be effected than if all viewers of The Bachelor boycotted the site (a boycott I could definitely get behind). 

Without infringing on free speech, what more could social media sites do than better enforce already existing rules?

Racism is a deeply rooted issue in society; staying off social media isn’t going to make it go away. Neville’s proposed boycott isn’t going to tackle the reasons why people are so hateful toward others who don’t look or pray like them. It isn’t going to fix hate speech in any way. 

To be fair to Neville, he isn’t completely clueless on the issue. He appears to understand hate speech goes beyond the racism we’ve seen in the last week, particularly in regard to sexist comments made toward his Three Lionesses players. Women’s athletes (and women in general) are targeted far more often by hate speech and harassment on social media than men. 

“We talk to them all the time because my players get that kind of abuse all the time, whether it’s racist, whether it’s sexist, whether it’s homophobic,” Neville said. “They get that kind of abuse. Nothing gets done about it, but we experienced it earlier in the season.

“It’s not going away, I think there’s some fantastic campaigns, initiatives, messaging that goes out, particularly in the Premier League, through the FA, about trying to stamp out racism. And at times, you feel as if you’re making inroads, and then you get probably a massive reminder that actually we’re probably not.

“It’s a problem not just in football — it’s a problem in society, but football now is at the forefront of everybody’s minds in terms of, we’ve got the power to do something about it. I think the football community will. I think we try, but it’s getting to the point now where I think we need to make a real strong message, and I say to every single footballer out there, and to every club, and to the PFA: Why don’t we make a big stand? Come off social media. Boycott all social media now, and see if that makes a big enough impact.”

Neville is right that soccer can help make a difference. But boycotting social media is a silly idea, not least because media companies like The18 rely on social media to survive. 

Social media shouldn’t be avoided because some trolls have used it to espouse hate speech. Social media should be use as a tool to combat hate speech. Social media, with its ability to connect people from around the world, should bring people together, not tear them apart. 

Videos you might like