Two teenagers have been arrested over racist tweets they made towards an English footballers as problems with social media and sports connect to rise in England. Samuel Ameobi, an English born athlete of Nigerian descent, logged into Twitter one day to find his page vandalized.
The Newcastle United forward was a victim of an attack by a follower who called him a racial term and proceeded to send messages and tweet a picture confronting Ameobi. The Guardian has the exact tweets here, of which Ameobi responded tweeting, “Sad to see some people are still racist nowadays.”
The 19-year-old forward exercised remarkable restraint off the field, especially on a medium that has tempted so many athletes. All-star footballer Wayne Rooney has been documented as getting into fights with fans online, as many other athletes around the world have condemned and even attacked fans.
Ameobi , however, reported the incident to the police, who investigated and later arrested two 17-year-old males on suspicion of malicious communication, reported The Guardian. The team has strongly supported Ameobi during this time, and continues to promote anti-racism initiatives.
“We represent the local community here and when something like this happens we have to react strongly,” said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew. “We will not tolerate any type of behaviour like that.”
Last week, members of the team including Shola Ameobi, Samuel’s brother, spoke at a workshop for schoolchildren designed to educate them on racism.
Sadly, this is not the first time that fans have engaged with hostility towards English athletes on Twitter. Several golfers reported earlier in the summer that they have grown tired of the medium, as it contains more negative comments and energy than it does positive. In another instance, a young footballer opened an account only to close it later that day because it was inundated with malicious attacks by English sports fanatics.
It would seem the most culturally poignant aspect of the intersection of Twitter and sports. The same hostility does not seem to take place on such a regular bases with athletes in North America. The only case that comes to mind is the incident of quarterback Jay Cutler: the oft-maligned gunslinger was piled on by fans and the media on Twitter when he was injured during a playoff game and looked to be disinterested in what was happening on the field.
However, it seems all too often that when athletes get attacked on Twitter, it is taking place in England. Surely fans are passionate, but that ardor cannot justify hateful and racist attacks. A medium that so often connects fans and athletes, one with countless anecdotes showcasing the generosity of players and the revelry of fandom, is sadly brought down by those that choose to use it for hatred and malevolence.
The police investigation and ensuing arrests, however, will go a long way to demonstrating that people will be held accountable for what they say and do, even if it is online. Twitter continues to demonstrate and uphold freedoms of speech in democratic nations; yet again, however, we are reminded that it is indeed a right, and that individuals do not concede the freedom of consequence.