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International

Arrest Made After Online Racial Abuse of West Brom Player

January 30, 2021

WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) — A man has been arrested on suspicion of racially abusing West Bromwich Albion midfielder Romaine Sawyers online.

The Premier League club had reported to police on Friday that a racist message was sent to Sawyers during the team's 5-0 loss to Manchester City on Tuesday.

Late Friday, West Midlands Police said it had taken a 49-year-old man from Kingswinford into custody for questioning. The town is 10 miles from West Bromwich.

“Our dedicated football hate crime officer is also investigating another report of a racist comment towards the same footballer,” the police said. “We will not tolerate racism.”

West Brom had called for the “ toughest available legal punishment."

Sawyers' case wasn't even the latest example of a Black athlete being targeted online.

Chelsea's Reece James late Friday night posted a screenshot of racist messages he received on Instagram. The 21-year-old England right back responded, “Something needs to change!”

Chelsea condemned the abuse, saying it was disgusted.

“This club finds racism and all forms of discriminatory behavior completely unacceptable,” Chelsea said in a statement early Saturday.

“In sport, as in wider society,” the statement continued, “we must create a social media environment where hateful and discriminatory actions are as unacceptable online as they would be on the street.”

Earlier in the week, Manchester United players Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial were targets of racial abuse online after the team's 2-1 home loss to last-placed Sheffield United.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters on Friday called on social media companies to take action.

“Tackling online hate is a priority for football, and I believe social media companies need to do more," he said.

The players’ union has encouraged players to press charges if possible.

“Systemic racism causes trauma, and footballers are not immune by virtue of their profession,” the Professional Footballers Association said Thursday. “Players’ mental health can be affected by racial abuse and the impact of wider racial prejudice in society.”

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