July 21st, 2024

Canada coach not surprised by level of social media abuse directed at female players

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on December 12, 2023.

Canada coach Bev Priestman was not surprised at a report detailing the social media abuse female players encounter these days.

One in five players (152) at the Women’s World Cup this summer received “targeted discriminatory, abusive or threatening messaging,” according to FIFA and FIFPRO, the global players’ association.

The report, released Monday, suggested players at the Women’s World Cup were 29 per cent more likely to receive online abuse than those at the men’s tournament in 2022. The study was based on data from FIFA’s Social Media Protection Service (SMPS), which tries to help shield players, teams and officials from online abuse and hate speech.

Almost half of “detected and verified” abusive messages were homophobic, sexual and sexist.

“Social media training and how we protect our players is really really important,” Priestman said Tuesday from Zurich. “But it definitely didn’t surprise me, because I think it’s the world in which we live in.”

The report analyzed abusive content from all the major social media platforms during the Women’s World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in July and August. FIFA said 5.1 million posts and comments in 35 different languages were analyzed. More than 400,000 comments were reported and hidden.

The report said the U.S. and Argentina were the teams most targeted for abuse. The report listed the 10 most-targeted teams, with Canada not featuring in the list.

Priestman said the Canadian team culture has helped shelter her players.

“I think we have a pretty good team policy,” she said. “I know for myself, coming in with Canada, we won’t talk about anything that’s in the media in our environment. That’s because you’ve got some very good, experienced players who’ve brought in a culture of, when you’re in a tournament, being off social media or at least trying to have a team policy around how we use that.”

The goal is “to stay present and on our path rather than maybe being deviated by the opinions of others.”

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2023.

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