Dubai: Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha has hit out against the perennial existence of racism and hate on modern social media platforms.
Speaking to CNN’s Darren Lewis, Zaha admitted that most often he is scared to even access social media platforms such as Instagram simply because of the number of hate messages that he receives.
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Zaha says he’s been forced to remove Twitter from his phone as the torrent of racist abuse becomes unbearable. “For black footballers for instance, being on Instagram is not even fun anymore,” Zaha told Lewis in an interview.
“You’re not enjoying your profile because I’m scared to even look up my direct messages anymore. It could be filled with anything,” he added.
Zaha further went on to admit that he has in recent times, stayed far away from social media. “I don’t even have Twitter on my phone anymore because it’s almost certain that you’re going to get some sort of abuse, especially after games and stuff, because it happens so freely,” Zaha stressed.
Earlier this month, a 12-year-old boy was arrested in connection with racist threats made to the Crystal Palace forward via Instagram’s direct message service. Zaha had then voiced his disgust at the messages, while also admitting the need to move on through a system of education so that things could change in the future.
The 12-year-old was later released even as Midlands Police continued with their investigations into the incident. “How is a 12-year-old even thinking about that? Where has that hate come from? I understand he’s a twelve-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,” Zaha said.
“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… Later on, I found out that same 12-year-old boy contacted like three other players, racially abused three other players in my team as well,” he added.
Zaha, who advanced into the Crystal Palace first team from their academy, in 2010, admitted that there was no reprieve from racist abuse in the aftermath. “Even after I reported the abuse from the twelve-year old, I reported 50 accounts. And I got racially abused after the stuff that I got before, and it’s like, what happens after that account gets blocked?” he questioned.
“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 asked.
The Ivory Coast striker recounted his first experience of racist abuse on social media. “I remember my first message. I remember it like it was yesterday. When we went to play against Manchester United, and someone spoke about, he said: ‘Black something, black this…’ and ‘I hope you break your legs and go back to the slums of Croydon’ and stuff like that,” Zaha recounted.
“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,” the 27-year-old added.