World football superstar Romelu Lukaku has called for social media CEOs and footballers to meet to discuss how the virtual world could help police racism in the real world.
Lukaku, who led Belgium to the World Cup semi-finals earlier this summer, said a lack of dialogue is stopping people being held accountable when pictures of abuse are posted online, and is urging his peers to talk about the problem.
“I think some footballers should talk about this,” the Manchester United striker told Reuters.
“Football is a little bit crazy, it is a little bit hard to talk about things like this. I never wanted to be a social media star. I wanted to be a football star and I always said it.
“I want to show my skills on the field and win titles, but I think when I’ve played football people have understood that I am a family man, I’m a boy, I like my fans. I have a girlfriend now. That’s the image I wanted.”
When asked if he thought footballers needed to police social media accounts like football managers have done, Lukaku replied: “I think footballers should talk about this. Footballers have a bit of power in social media. Why not us show how we are?
“If people in England want to see videos and pictures of little boys playing with bananas, they get punished for that, why can’t football punish them? Why can’t the police do it? Why can’t they tell people the responsibility?
“I think a lot of people did that (offended in England) but there is no punishment for them. I think everybody needs to talk to their favourite footballers and their football fans, and make that talk about ‘What are you doing when you are out, and what are you doing when you are in?’ “I think I can take charge of social media better than others.
“You see some fans are good fans, sometimes they are bad fans. Sometimes you see a guy that is racist, maybe he is coming on a flight with a protest song against me.
“But footballers can deal with that. Footballers on our own have lots of power to control the media. Some people have a lot of power and (people use it) to say things without anybody reacting.”
Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference in London, where senior administrators from across the sport were speaking at the same time, Lukaku went on to thank supporters for their support after former PSV Eindhoven star Bertrand Traore became the latest football person to draw attention to racism.
In a video posted to his Instagram account, Traore’s team-mate Dejan Lovren showed one of the red cards he’s been issued as a Liverpool player. But rather than show another, Lovren did the “Simon Says” move – putting both fists up and shouting, “Simon says sorry.”
It is the second time this summer that Lovren has sent a video to social media to call attention to racism – and Lukaku believes the videos must be used to tackle the problem.
“We saw what happened last week. First it was Luis Suarez and now this. Social media is another thing and now what’s happening with our footballers, that’s why the media, the world, I think something needs to be done.
“I hope somebody makes this stop,” he added. “Not just for the game in the European Championship or for me, for other footballers. I think for everybody, because we are getting closer to becoming like the world in the next two years. People need to wake up.”