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18th Feb 2021

Arsenal chief executive hits out at social media giants for double standards on racism

Vinai Venkatesham, the Arsenal chief executive has expressed concerns about racist abuse becoming normalised on social media

Reuben Pinder

“How do you explain to a black footballer that pirated content is taken down in minutes but not racist abuse?”

Arsenal’s chief executive Vinai Venkatesham has called on social media companies to do more in the fight against racism online, expressing concerns that toxic abuse is becoming normalised.

Venkatesham, who has worked at Arsenal in various roles since 2010, questioned the intentions of social media companies who are quicker to remove pirated video content than tackle racist abuse on their platforms.

A number of Arsenal players have been subject to racist abuse from their own fans in recent weeks, among several others from different clubs, as the culture of online abuse grows increasingly toxic. Granit Xhaka was recently racially abused by fans identifying as season ticket holders, while striker Eddie Nketiah was abused on Twitter as recently as Thursday morning.

Speaking at the Financial Times Business of Football event on Thursday, Venkatesham said: “This is possibly the biggest problem we have in the game at the minute.

“Footballers, referees, officials are all human beings with feelings. You can’t underestimate the impact social media abuse can have on individuals.”

As Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta alluded to in a recent press conference, the club have support structures in place for players when they are suffering from online abuse.

But Venkatesham believes social media companies need to do more and back up their recent words with actions.

“We provide support and psychologists but I don’t want to be writing another release on how disgusted we are,” he said.

“This has to be a wake up call. It’s increasingly becoming normalised and in 2021 we can’t be having a conversation about it becoming normalised. I’m not saying it’s simple, easy with a silver bullet to solve it but players and social media companies need to come together.

“It’s a moment in time and if we don’t make progress I worry about the path we’re heading on. We need the support of social media companies here.

“We can’t do it alone. How do you explain to a black footballer that if a piece of pirated content goes up, it gets taken down in minutes but that isn’t the same for racist abuse?”