Thierry Henry has announced that he will be quitting social media until online abuse is controlled with the same magnitude that copyright infringements are.
The ex-Arsenal and Barcelona star, who won the World Cup with France in 1998, announced on Friday that he hopes his decision to step away from social media will inspire others to stand up against racist abuse and bullying online.
In a statement shared with his combined 14.8 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Henry said he would remove himself from all social media as of Saturday.
“The sheer volume of racism, bullying, and resulting mental torture is too toxic to ignore,” he wrote, calling for greater “accountability” online. It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence, and still remain anonymous,” he added.
“Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”
He said he took inspiration from former athletes, such as boxer Muhammad Ali, who was outspoken about social issues and topics such as the Vietnam War.
“Muhammad Ali didn’t want to go to war, he didn’t wait to see if everyone was with him, it’s what he felt,” Henry said.
“Please understand that I’m nowhere near that caliber, but I said to myself: ‘Thierry, that’s how you feel, you feel strongly about it.’ That’s what I’m going to do. To show that, obviously, I’m not happy with how things are going on social media.”
Henry was until January coach of MLS club CF Montreal, where he managed among other Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama.
The Frenchman added that racism in soccer had been an issue throughout his career and has previously spoken about the abuse he received as a player.
“Things are a tiny bit better in the stadium but now the problem has moved on social media, where people can hide,” he added.
“You can always say: ‘Oh, it’s difficult to trace who it is.’ You close that account, they can open another one. So you only move the problem. That problem has been going on for a long time and this is not an attack on anyone. It’s about making the place safer.”
Henry has 10 million, 2.7 million, and 2.3 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter respectively.