The decision of Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal team to forfeit a match over alleged homophobic abuse has “taken the genie out of the bottle” and could spark similar protests in the future, Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari has said.
Kick It Out is working with Facebook and Twitter on a new initiative called Take A Stand, which encourages individuals and organisations to make a public pledge to help bring about positive change in the area of discrimination.
Bhandari says the nature of the pledge will be different for each individual, and he praised the actions of Donovan’s team in walking off the pitch during their USL Championship match against Phoenix Rising on September 30 over an alleged slur directed at midfielder Collin Martin.
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) October 1, 2020
“It was an amazingly powerful thing that Landon Donovan did,” he said.
“There are protocols for when there is abuse from crowds, but if there is abuse amongst the players and the players feel they want to walk off, they should. That’s a really powerful symbol.
“Landon Donovan has taken the genie out of the bottle now, once somebody has done that it won’t be long before someone else does the same if they’re in a similar circumstance.”
Bhandari insists the relationship his organisation has with social media companies will not change as a result of the new partnership.
“We are going to continue to be both a critic and a friend – it’s called having a grown-up relationship with them,” he said.
“You shouldn’t take that because I’m having a grown-up relationship with Facebook or Twitter as an indication that I’m satisfied with the speed with which things are being taken down. We will continue to have those conversations about improving.”
Facebook is supporting Take A Stand by building a new automated Messenger service to enable matchday supporters – once they are let back into venues – to report abuse they witness direct to Kick It Out.
It is also launching an education programme developed with HOPE Not Hate which will be delivered through clubs’ community and fan engagement activities. Initially Derby, Portsmouth and the England national teams will be involved in the pilot before a further roll-out next year.
Fans will also be able to access information on anti-discrimination initiatives by messaging ‘hi’ to 07432 140 310 on WhatsApp.
Facebook’s vice-president for northern Europe, Steve Hatch, spoke about the work his organisation does to proactively take down content deemed hateful from its platform.
He said that between April and June of this year action had been taken against 22.5 million pieces of content and that 94.5 per cent of that was detected and removed proactively by Facebook, rather than by users reporting it.
In the last quarter of 2017 the social media giant proactively took down less than a quarter of such content.
As part of Take A Stand, Twitter will continue to provide training to clubs and police forces and to proactively take action against hateful content. It says that more than one in two tweets deemed hateful are proactively removed.
Bhandari accepts there is a long way to go being able to understand the reasons why such hate speech exists and where it was coming from, and said his goal was to create a more integrated approach.
“I can talk to you about numbers and I can talk to you about the tip of the iceberg because I’ve got the numbers of the reports that are made to me, but I haven’t got every report that’s made to all the 20 Premier League clubs, the 92 across the whole league, through to grassroots, the local police forces, and to Stonewall and the other charities that receive that data. What I would like is to pool that data,” he said.
“What I don’t want to do is come back every year going through Groundhog Day saying ‘the numbers have gone up, the numbers have gone up’.
“We need to scratch below that to understand a taxonomy of hatred – what is actually going on?
“The reality is we don’t know. I don’t know if this is 12-year-old kids in a bedroom or orchestrated hate by foreign governments. In cyber crime there’s an established taxonomy – we’ve got none of that for this.”