Hatters boss hopes social media boycott can force those at the very top to act over online abuse

Town chief executive also believes more must be done

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 4:01 pm
Town boss Nathan Jones

Luton manager Nathan Jones is hoping that by the Hatters joining clubs and organisations up and down the country in boycotting social media this weekend, it will cause the ripple effect needed for platforms to start making changes at the very top.

From 3pm on Friday, Premier League, English Football League and Women's Super League clubs, plus the Football Association will join in a four-day boycott of social media platforms in an effort to combat the rising amount of disgusting racist abuse and discrimination being aimed at players and staff, ending at 11.59pm on Monday.

They have now been followed by England Rugby, the England and Wales Cricket Board, British Cycling, while broadcasters Sky Sports, BT Sport and Talksport have all confirmed they won't post during those times either.

Luton full back Peter Kioso was one of a growing number of players who was a victim to such abuse on Instagram when he was celebrating Town's escape from relegation last season, which led to a 15-year-old boy from the Hartlepool area being arrested.

Speaking about the boycott this afternoon, Jones hopes it has the desired effect, saying: “I don’t know how you stop it because until there’s big change at the top end of social media companies - and I’ve been the victim of social media abuse, trust me - then I’m not sure how much real work we can do to change it.

“People’s attitudes have to change in the world and I’m not sure that’s going to change any time soon, because it’s how society is.

“Anyone can set up an account, be totally behind a screen, and I mean not just actually but metaphorically as well, they can be unseen, say whatever they want and nothing happens.

“I could go on and hammer Pep Guardiola (Manchester City boss) if I want and make up a fake name.

"Until that thing changes, there’s no real change going to be made.

“But the fact there’s a boycott, and that means we won’t read it, we won’t write it, then that’s a good thing.

“For me, I’ve come off pretty much everything on social media because literally anyone, no matter how good a job you’re doing, how hard you’re working or whatever you’re doing, anyone could come up, say something and then it’s in the realm.

“If you want to read everything, you can drive yourself crazy and I’m talking about normal comments. 

“Anything that’s racially driven is fundamentally wrong.

"We’re against all that, we’ll support the boycott and just hope that it has some sort of minor ripple that the change will come from the top.”

Jones has been the victim of abuse himself online after deciding to leave Luton to join Stoke City in January 2019.

While he knows that is nothing to contend with when it comes to the racist element of the insults that footballers are suffering, he is aware how hard it is to read, adding: “It’s difficult if you take all those things to heart.

"When I left the club, that was totally a different level.

“If I want to read social media now, we’ve only got to draw a game and there’ll be masses of negativity and if that then affects my mindset, I’ll drive myself potty.

“You can’t do that because anyone - and they don’t have to have the club or the good of the club at heart - could say anything, but we’re talking about a different thing.

“Racial abuse or any kind of abuse that is directed, not just at performance levels, but your race, ethnicity, gender or whatever it is, is wrong, but it’s just so easy to do.”

Speaking to the EFL, Town chief executive Gary Sweet was also of the opinion that the platforms themselves need to do more to prevent such abuse getting through, adding: "It's certainly got to be on the agenda that we've got to persuade the originators not to do this and that's through education.

"That equality is necessary in our society today and that's something that we as a club and many other clubs continue to do.

"But surely the first thing we've got to do is actually stop those message from getting through to their target audience and stop the harm being caused."