Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has urged the CEOs of social media companies to meet with leading Premier League players to try to put an end to the abuse that footballers face online in an exclusive interview.
Although social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have added new features in recent months, such as the ability to limit who can respond to posts, star players in both the men’s and women’s games continue to face racist, sexist, and homophobic abuse, as well as death threats.
This is a personal issue for Lukaku, who has previously been targeted by racist fans, and the Belgian international explains why he wants to get more involved.
“I have to fight,” he told CNN’s Amanda Davies. “Because I’m not fighting only for myself. I’m fighting for my son, for my future kids, for my brother, for all of the other players and their kids, you know, for everybody.”
Lukaku believes it is now time for all parties involved in the abuse, including footballers, social media companies, and governing bodies, to band together and take responsibility for putting an end to it.
“The captains of every team, and four or five players, like the big personalities of every team, should have a meeting with the CEOs of Instagram and governments and the FA and the PFA, and we should just sit around the table and have a big meeting about it,” Lukaku says.
“How we can attack it straight away, not only from the men’s game, but also from the women’s game. I think just all of us together and just have a big meeting and have a conference and just talk about stuff that needs to be addressed to protect the players, but also to protect fans and younger players that want to become professional footballers.”
Lukaku was speaking to CNN about Chelsea’s ‘No To Hate’ photography competition, which encourages Chelsea fans all over the world to send in photos that show the club’s diversity and how football can be a unifying factor in the face of hatred and discrimination in any form.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich launched the ‘No To Hate’ campaign in March in response to the “disgusting and unacceptable racist abuse” Chelsea defender Reece James received in January.
Lukaku has faced racist abuse on the field throughout his career, particularly while playing for Inter Milan in Italy, and recently told CNN that racism in football is at a “all-time high.”
He claims, however, that the never-ending battle against racism is one he will never tire of.
“At the end of the day, football should be an enjoyable game,” he said. “You cannot kill the game by discrimination. That should never happen.
“Football is joy, it’s happiness and it shouldn’t be a place where you feel unsafe because of the opinion from some uneducated people.”
The Football Association (FA) has contacted Chelsea directly to arrange a meeting with Lukaku, according to a spokesperson for the FA. “We always welcome discussions about this important topic with players and others across the game,” said the spokesperson.