Football and basketball player associations united against online abuse of athletes


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Representatives from FIFPRO, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) came together for a cross-sport discussion highlighting online abuse targeted at professional athletes.

The virtual forum, held on Twitter Spaces, came just a day after the three player associations published Decoding Online Abuse of Players: the first international study of online abuse directed at athletes.

The message from player bodies during Wednesday’s forum was clear: collective action is needed to protect professional athletes from online abuse.

“There’s an increasing commodification of players, not just in a commercial sense, but in that they're not being looked at as human beings,” FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said during the discussion.

“It’s frustrating we’re still at a stage where we have to do reports to gather evidence for a problem everyone knows exists.

“Bringing these groups together is ultimately the key to unlocking the potential for action. It's just the first step in this collaboration.”

“Our three organisations have a joint mission: to protect, support and amplify our players,” said Tamika Tremaglio, Executive Director of the NBPA.

“We recognise that technology offers tremendous benefits for players - building their brand, building their followership. We also recognise it becomes an extension of their workplace.

“Online abuse has become more prevalent in recent years. It’s become a global issue.”

Decoding Online Abuse of Players details how racism and homophobia accounted for the overwhelming majority of verified targeted abuse towards men’s football players (in 85 percent of cases) and basketball players (74 percent of cases).

Four out of five instances of abuse directed at women’s basketball players included sexually explicit or harassment messages.

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The report exposes a significant threat to the mental health and well-being of today’s top athletes. It raises important questions about their workplace and what can be done to ensure they enjoy adequate protection as workers.

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The collaboration of the three player associations represents a commitment to find common ground between the unions and athletes from two of the world’s biggest sports, providing a united front against countering abuse and protecting players.

“We absolutely believe in the power of the collective,” said Terri Carmichael Jackson, Executive Director, WNBPA. “It means we can have these global conversations and discuss how we can engage partners, stakeholders and social media platforms.

“We need to bring social media platforms into those conversations and talk about the solutions.”

The cross-sport partnership, while raising awareness of online abuse directed at professional athletes, is also a reminder how social media has the potential to unite and act as a catalyst for positive change.

“Social media platforms have a huge role in amplifying positive messages and bringing necessary conversations into public discourse,” said Sarah Gregorius, FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations Women's Football.

“There is an unbelievable amount of good that can radiate off the online space, where players and fans feel more connected.”