December 13, 2022

Tackling racism in sport

By Yann Guérin
View all posts


Racism in sports is a major issue, with many players facing racist online abuse after a match.

How to fight racism in sports and protect the players

Sports fans are incredibly passionate about their teams and favourite players. The rivalry between fans can reach fever pitch and beyond. When tempers and emotions run high at sporting events, there can often be a lot of abusive, offensive and racist comments directed at players. 

Sadly, with the rise of chat groups and online forums, racism in sport is now more of a problem than ever before. Tackling racism and the problems of sex discrimination and race discrimination in sport requires innovative solutions that use the latest technology. Sports clubs and businesses that operate online chat rooms need to act to prevent toxic behaviour both on the field and online.

Which sports are most affected by racism?

While all sports are affected by racist incidents, none quite match the level of acts of racism as football. Statistics show that up to 93% of spectators have witnessed acts of brutality and racial abuse against a person of colour during a football game. 

It is clear that work needs to be done to tackle discrimination across all sports and to protect players and fans from being discriminated and putting an end to racism in football.

How does racism affect football players?

Racial abuse causes significant harm to players and their families. Being the subject of repeated racial abuse can negatively impact a player’s performance on the pitch, their self-worth, and overall mental state which feeds across to their direct family. Even if a player is not the victim of an attack, racist abuse can generate feelings of ill will toward the public. Racist abuse also greatly diminishes the reputation of the club.     

Take the racial abuse that was previously directed at former Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli. The footballer suffered a barrage of online racial abuse after he made a tweet poking fun at rival club Manchester United. The abuse against Balotelli was so severe that the UK police investigated the incident. It should be noted that Balotelli is no stranger to controversy, as shortly after the Manchester United incident he himself was charged by the English Football Association for posting a picture on Instagram that was deemed to be racist. 

Protecting athletes and the general public from being a victim of racism or having to witness racist attacks should be a priority for any football team or organisation. Racism left unchecked can negatively affect brand image and online reputation. A club may suffer a blow to its reputation if a player is accused of racist behaviour against another player or group, accelerated by the incident going viral across social media.

Racist attacks on social media

There have been repeated incidents of racism against England players, both in person and online. Studies have shown that online abuse of England players increases whenever a player speaks out against racism on Twitter or other social media. It has been reported by True Vision, a UK police online reporting service, that 50% of complaints about racism received during a match were related to online social media abuse against players.

How to protect your players and club

How to better fight racism in sports is a major question for football clubs, organisations and fans alike. Protecting players from online racial abuse and protecting the public requires diligent moderation of online forums and chat groups by human moderators. However, on their own, human moderators cannot be expected to stop toxic behaviour. Platforms need moderation, but a team of human moderators on their own isn't a scalable solution. A combination of human moderators and automated software is the best way to provide protection for everyone, players, clubs, fans, and organisations from online racial abuse. 

Prevent and avoid racism in sport 

Bodyguard uses AI technology and a team of linguistic experts to automatically moderate comments and remove classifications of hate such as racism from social media sources before it becomes public. Bodyguard does what large companies, clubs and organisations cannot. Unlike human moderators, Bodyguard can act immediately to stop racist abuse and comprehensively protect the players, the public and the club’s reputation. Bodyguard can detect and remove offensive behaviour in less than 100 milliseconds, as opposed to a human moderator who will usually take 10 seconds to read, analyze and moderate a single comment.


What is racism in sports?

Racism in sport includes acts of discrimination, abuse, harassment and vilification of players by other players, by the general public towards players, or between fans.

What can be done to stop racism in sports?

How can we get rid of racism in sport? Promoting tolerance and cultural awareness amongst fans and educating people about the need to stop racist abuse is an important part to ending racism in sport. By moderating online comments using Bodyguard, clubs and organisations can eliminate the highest level of toxic abusive behaviour from their online communities instantly, effectively having a human AI powered solution working around the clock to provide the most proficient level of online protection. 

How does racism affect participation in sports?

Racism can deeply impact an athlete’s sense of self-worth and their desire to perform at their peak for the public. Amongst fans, racist attacks and abuse can be equally damaging and stop people from participating in football matches or sporting events. 

Want to know more about how Bodyguard can protect your club and players from toxicity online? Take a look.

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