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Professional football and basketball players face horrific online abuse, new study finds


The most prominent athletes from all sports disciplines enjoy a huge following on social media and are immensely popular across the world. From football to basketball to cricket, big names in all sports have massive fanbases to boast about. While athletes are loved and often praised by their fans for their heroism on the field, things aren’t always the same. There are instances where fans turn to their own teams and players to criticize their performance.

While constructive criticism is welcomed by most athletes, who understand the pressure that comes with representing great teams in their respective sports, there are times when fans cross the line on social media while lashing out at a individual. Some resort to abuse and racist messages common to all sports.

Recently, a study revealed that professional basketball and soccer players have to endure “horrific work-related online abuse”. Players are abused and also targeted because of their race and religion. The study was conducted by FIFPRO, the union representing footballers worldwide and the unions representing the NBA and WNBA.

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The researchers used artificial intelligence to analyze the social media accounts of 80 footballers and 80 basketball players, with the athletes representing a total of 200 million social media followers. It was found that during the period of May to September 2021, the study reported 1,558 abusive posts sent from 1,455 different accounts to football league and NBA players.

The players have been targeted by fans for changing clubs, due to team rivalries and their own poor performances on the pitch, among other things. 85% of abuse directed at football players was homophobic or racist in nature while 74% of abuse directed at basketball players was homophobic or racist.

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“This report highlights that some of the most abused players were targeted when they changed clubs while others saw abuse related to problems on the pitch,” said FIFPRO President David Aganzo. .

“While analysts have also acknowledged that players are being targeted due to club rivalries or perceptions of their character, we need to seek better cooperation between all game stakeholders to better protect the people who create the game in first place,” he added.

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Post expires at 9:27pm on Saturday June 11th, 2022