Marvin Bartley: Why sponsors and advertisers hold key in fight against social media racism

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Finding a way to hit social media companies in the pocket will have a far greater impact than appealing to their conscience, according to Marvin Bartley, who welcomed the fact that sponsors and businesses have pledged to join the upcoming social media boycott by footballers and clubs.

A high-profile coalition of English football's main governing bodies and organisations, including the Football Association, Premier League and EFL announced last weekend that they will suspend all use of their social media accounts from 3pm on Friday, April 30 until 11.59pm on Monday, May 3, in a show of solidarity against racism, online abuse and threatening behaviour.

They are set to be joined by the FA Women's Super League, FA Women's Championship, Professional Footballers' Association, League Managers Association, PGMOL, Kick It Out, Women in Football and the Football Supporters' Association

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Welcoming the stance, the Livingston captain and recently-appointed SFA equality advisor said he has little faith in the owners of online platforms doing the right thing without being coerced.

Livingston's Marvin Bartley  (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group)Livingston's Marvin Bartley  (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group)
Livingston's Marvin Bartley (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group)

Claiming they are well aware of the abuse yet continue to drag their heels when it comes to policing abusers and stamping out discriminatory comments, he hopes the fact that the likes of Adidas who manufacture more than a third of EPL kits, have said they will halt advertising across social media during the boycott will kick-start change.

“The hierarchy at these social media companies can see what is going on but they must sit in meetings and decide to just ignore it. It’s not as if they are not seeing racism.

“But all they care about is that all these faceless accounts and fake profiles are pushing their numbers up and that allows them to charge more for advertising. So it doesn’t suit them to police it and only allow legitimate accounts or to throw people off. Until it costs them money then they just won’t care. They are happy to let racism carry on.

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“That’s why it is good that sponsors and advertisers are getting on board. That’s when things might change.”

Aston Villa and Everton’s shirt sponsor, Cazoo, were the first major football sponsors to announce its support, with several others expected to follow suit.

Adidas said that they will halt all paid advertising across UK social platforms for the duration of the boycott, while Barclays, the title sponsor of the WSL and the official bank of the Premier League will also support the blackout, silencing all social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

MP Julie Elliott, has written to the Leader of the House of Commons requesting Parliamentary time be put aside to debate the boycott. But, Bartley said that people in power need to stop talking about it and act.

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“The Government is not blameless in this either. They could step in and licence things but, they don’t. The silence is deafening and it is so, so sad that people are still experiencing this. I still get it. I was called the N-word but when it was reported to Instagram they said they couldn’t do anything because it didn’t go against their code of conduct! What’s that all about?

“That shows that these companies don’t care, but maybe if it starts costing them advertisers and money, they might start caring. Let’s hope so.”

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