Joe Willock has seen somewhat of a meteoric rise of late in his young footballing career after his brilliant 6-month loan spell at Newcastle.
After scoring 8-goals in just fourteen appearances for the Magpies after leaving Arsenal on loan in January of last season, Willock is back at St. James’ Park on a full deal that netted the Gunners a fee in the region of £25million while offering the London-native a chance to really kick-start his professional career.
Willock speaks out on racist abuse via social media; has considered dropping accounts
Despite his quick-start success last season and hopeful happy times ahead for the England U21 international, Willock is still subjected to being a target for daily racist abuse on social media platforms in what has become a problem of epidemic proportions across the world of football.
Few need reminding of events that have transpired in recent months. From Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford being targeted for abuse in the wake of England’s loss to Italy in the final of Euro 2020 on penalties, to Rangers’ Glen Kamara being abused by Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela during their Europa League clash, and countless instances in between, Willock has gone public with his own experiences while calling for platforms to clamp down on accounts that spew abuse and any form of racist rhetoric.
“It comes up on your phone and they have a way of direct messaging you on to your phone these disgusting things and it sort of hurts. It hurts a lot – even speaking about it”
Willock: “Every day I get messages. Messages saying about my colour or different things that are disgusting, really. There’s not much you can do – you just have to try and ignore it. I don’t think IG, Facebook and Twitter have put up enough of a fight for us to do anything else.” pic.twitter.com/wK2B7WX5lj
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) August 19, 2021
When speaking with BBC Radio Newcastle, Willock not only spoke candidly about the nature of the abuse he receives but also the effect that it does have on a person regardless of their standing in society.
Additionally, despite the daily messages sent to his personal accounts, Willock makes mention of just how important social media is in modern-day sports as an avenue for positive social interaction;
“If you come off social media, you lose that connection with all the wonderful fans that are supporting you every day, want to see your everyday life and see what you do and have that connection with you over the platform that they wouldn’t have in real life.”
The ability for professional footballers to humanize themselves while being more open to the public than ever before – as easy as the push of a button or the swipe of a finger – still gives more than enough scope for many to want to remain on social media in a bid to continue to foster connections with the countless number of fans that show love and support both on and off the pitch.
While organizations like Kick It Out, and Sky Sports remain committed to combating racial abuse and discrimination of any kind, more must be done if the fight will not be in vain.