Michael Weir: We need greater punishments for those who racially abuse footballers on social media
When you compare racism in Scottish football in my playing days to now, the big difference is social media.
That’s the biggest issue at the moment. It has to be dealt with. Something has to change in terms of people being allowed to abuse players online for the colour of their skin or their religion or whatever.
It needs dealt with as soon as possible. Over the last three or four months there has been a horrendous amount of abuse on social media and for people to be allowed to do that – that’s what’s different from when I was playing.
The only way to challenge racism is education, and that’s what Show Racism the Red Card has always worked on: trying to educate the next generation.
I’ve noticed a big change. People don't allow it to happen now. Before it might have been deemed part of society but now, people are challenging it, and that’s the big difference from when I first started with Show Racism the Red Card.
We had a big fight on our hands to make people aware that it wasn’t acceptable and now everyboy is showing solidarity, especially football clubs.
But the main thing that needs dealt with is the social media platforms. There really is some awful stuff being posted and not just in Scottish football circles.
Until we get that right, I don’t think we’ll see a change. That to me is pivotal to beating racism or any kind of discrimination. Once that’s dealt with I think it will go a long way to helping people realise that that sort of abuse is unacceptable and people won’t accept it any more.
I must give credit to football clubs, rugby clubs, every organisation that has supported Show Racism the Red Card's campaign over the last five or six months – the response has been incredible.
The feeling now is that it is not acceptable and we’ll challenge it every time it comes up.
If there were greater punishments for those that abuse players on social media then that would go a long way to make a difference, 100 per cent.
I think if we saw people being properly dealt with for racial abuse on social media platforms then it would bring about a massive change.
Because these people are basically allowed to do it, and know they’re going to get away with it. But if there were more cases of people being arrested, or fined, then I think you would see a change in the amount of bile on social media.
Football players are immune to a wee bit of stick from the terracing – be it their own supporters or the visiting fans, that’s part and parcel of being in the sport. They accept that if they’ve had a bad game or haven’t played well, then there might be a bit of banter from fans.
But when it comes to the colour of a man’s skin or his religion, that’s the difference. That’s when it crosses the line.