FAI expresses support for James McClean after latest online abuse

Racist Instagram message was followed by threat to burn down Stoke City player’s house

Norwich City’s Kenny McLean (left) and Stoke City’s James McClean in action during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road. Photograph:  Nigel French/PA Wire

Norwich City’s Kenny McLean (left) and Stoke City’s James McClean in action during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road. Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire

 

The FAI has expressed support for Republic of Ireland midfielder James McClean after he was abused on social media by a racist who, when the player did not initially reply to a number of deeply offensive messages, threatened to burn his house down with his family inside.

The 31-year-old Stoke City star had complained in an Instagram post on Friday that he continues to receive racist messages on a regular basis but that despite making them public, nobody takes any notice.

“Banging my head against a brick wall here,” he wrote. “I have highlighted the abuse publicly on social media recently and the silence from everyone is deafening.”

McClean eventually responded to the abuse from an individual whose account name was Elliot.rg20, saying that the content directed at him was “water off a duck’s back” but that he was “crossing the line” by threatening his family. He challenged the abuser to repeat the comments to his face.

Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, have both repeatedly been urged to do more to counter racist abuse online and to deal far more quickly with messages emanating from accounts that are effectively anonymous and claim that they have significantly stepped up the measures they take to identify abuse and remove it more quickly.

In an interview with the BBC last week, however, a spokesperson for Facebook accepted that rather than immediately close down accounts from which such abuse is sent, the company first sends messages encouraging the user to “redeem and change their behaviour”.

Such users get an unspecified number of opportunities to “change their behaviour,” before finally having their accounts shut down.

Aside from McClean, who has regularly being abused both on the basis of his nationality and for his political stands, Cyrus Christie and Callum Robinson are among the other Ireland internationals to have received racist social media abuse.

Paul McGrath and David Meyler are among the former internationals to have sent messages of support to McClean on this occasion.

New FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill says that the association: “remains committed to safeguarding all of our players against any form of abuse on any social media platform. To abuse or threaten James or any player because of his nationality should not be tolerated by society. Unfortunately, such behaviour is all too common now on social media.

“Only last week we commended the stance taken by English football against the abuse of footballers across all social media channels and we are examining how best we can take a similar stance.”

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