The heinous online racial abuse aimed at footballers has been in focus recently, and Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger is speaking out after he was targeted by fans in the wake of Frank Lampard’s firing.
The German center back, still just 27, was mostly frozen out by Lampard this season after failing to seal a transfer in the fall.
Rudiger didn’t make his PL season debut until a Week 9 shutout of Newcastle, then waited until Dec. 28 for a second start despite Chelsea’s packed-in fixture list.
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Lampard handed him starts against Fulham and Leicester City before being fired, and Rudiger has played all 270 minutes for Thomas Tuchel.
“I have been in the club into my fourth season and I have had four different coaches, with Tuchel now, and it was never talked about when Sarri left the club or when Conte left the club that players were involved or something like this,” Rudiger said on Chelsea’s web site. “‘My conscience is clear. I know who I am and I know I did not do all that nonsense that came out and for me in my head, I am very free. I am open for every new coach, as I was open also for Mr. Lampard.”
Rudiger claims mental strength has allowed him to mostly ignore the abuse but he worries for those who might not have the ability to shut out the gross and abusive language from trolls and villains.
Just last week, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford made an appeal for change due to the number of young, diverse followers who are exposed to those abusing him online due to his follower count.
“I cannot control people’s emotions but people should be human beings. Me, I didn’t post anything but the racial abuse was immense. This makes me stronger because I know who I am, I can look in the mirror and I can smile. I know I didn’t do anything so for me this is forgotten.”
“I feel more sorry for people who are not strong enough so it really affects them. Of course it affects me in a way too but it is just in a way that makes me think that people are not normal, people I am sorry to say are just stupid.”
That this post is coming on Chelsea’s site says plenty, but the list of players who’ve made public the abuse suffered online is disgustingly long.
From Rudiger and Rashford to Wilfried Zaha and Paul Pogba, whose abuse was so problematic that Manchester United met with Twitter about legislating the problem, social media giants need to step up here.
It’s incumbent upon everyone to work together to eradicate racism but governance on the platforms themselves is key, as the ease of making an account even while being suspended is too much. And even plenty of famous people have been shown to be operating so-called “burner” accounts where they can criticize detractors without putting their name on it. It’s all cowardly, and worst type is the vile cowardice of racists.
But Rudiger levied the most serious charge when he said why he doesn’t expect anything to change.
“To be very honest I don’t know about all these social media things but I think the more people who make accounts, [the companies] make money off it,” he said. “So me personally, I think they don’t really care because as you know, this money has power so the rest doesn’t matter, so it is hard to tell if people will make a change on that.”
Sad truths. Hopefully we’re proven wrong.