Lionel Messi has urged footballers to ‘use their voices to stop abuse on social media’ in a post supporting British sport’s four-day boycott.
The Barcelona legend posted on his Instagram account – which is followed by more than 200m people – to pledge his support for the four-day initiative, which is in an attempt to tackle online abuse and discrimination.
Messi asked for his followers to give importance to the people that are behind each profile and asked for Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to do more.
The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA are uniting for the boycott from Friday through to Monday.
UEFA also gave its backing on Thursday, urging players, clubs and national associations “to lodge formal complaints whenever players, coaches, referees or officials are victims of unacceptable tweets or messages”.
FIFA also said it supports the English football-led social media boycott in response to discriminatory and offensive abuse on social media.
Key organisations from other UK sports – such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, England Rugby, Premiership Rugby, Scottish Rugby, the Professional Darts Corporation, British Cycling, the Lawn Tennis Association and the British Horseracing Authority – have opted to join, as have other broadcasters including BT Sport, At The Races and talkSPORT.
The British Basketball League and Women’s British Basketball League will also support the boycott along with key rugby league organisations including the Rugby Football League, Super League Europe, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby League Players’ Association.
Messi’s statement states,
“I have reached 200 million followers on Instagram, however, because of what is happening today, I am not going to take it as a reason for celebration.
“Of course I appreciate all the love and support that I always receive from you, but I think the time has come to give importance to all the PEOPLE behind each profile, that we realize that behind each account there is a person, who laughs, cries, enjoys and suffers, human beings with feelings.
“Let’s raise our voices to stop abuse on social media. It does not matter if we are anonymous, famous, athletes, referees or followers of a game, even someone outside all this, it does not matter the race, religion, ideology or gender … No one deserves to be mistreated or insulted.
“We live together seeing and experiencing abuse, increasingly worse in each of the networks, without anyone doing anything to prevent it. We must strongly condemn these hostile attitudes and demand that the companies that run the networks take urgent action against these behaviours.
“I would like you, the 200 million people who follow me, to become the 200 million reasons that exist to make the networks a safe and respectful place, where we can share what we want without fear of being insulted. And that insults, racism, abuse and discrimination remain outside of them forever.
“For you who are part of these networks and who are always with me, I hope you will accompany me and support me in this crusade.
“Big hug to all and congratulations to all the football people in the United Kingdom for their idea of putting together the campaign against abuse and discrimination in networks.”