Casey Stoney’s stance on sport’s social media boycott was crystal clear: “It’s not enough”, writes Rachel Steinberg.
The Manchester United head coach minced no words when offering her opinion on this weekend’s action, which will see the Women’s Super League join the Premier League, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Premiership Rugby and others in refraining from social media use from Friday afternoon through to bank holiday Monday.
Organisers say the protest will send a message to the platforms’ leaders to take stronger and swifter action on what the FA deemed a “relentless flow of discriminatory messages”, including racist and sexist abuse, on the channels.
But for the Reds boss, whose own player Lauren James called out Instagram after she was subjected to a barrage of racist messages, the weekend campaign is merely a well-intentioned blip on a year-round calendar of catastrophic cases.
"It’s not enough because we go silent for four days, which is part of it, because you’re taking away the social media influence, so you are taking it away," she said.
“But I think you can have a voice too, and those people have to be, like I said on my social media, is that the behaviours and values they align to, if it isn’t, do something about it.
“Because they’re the only people that can do something.
“And the more people that boycott, if millions and millions and millions boycott, when it starts hitting their pockets, they might do something about it.
“But whilst I see my player be racially abused on a daily basis, I will stand up and I will speak out and I won’t accept it.
“It’s my responsibility to understand, learn more, and challenge it."
Stoney met James, now 19, when the midfielder was a 14-year-old at Arsenal, and now feels a lion-like instinct to protect the whole United pride.
“You build a relationship with these players and you care about them, no matter their age, they become part of your outside family when you’re here with them," she added.
“I’m with these guys more than I’m with my kids. So, I have a responsibility and a duty of care for them, and I have a responsibility to stand up.”
While Stoney is happy to stick her neck out for her football family, she’s far less enamoured with the idea of standing tall amongst her fellow WSL Manager of the Season nominees, including Chelsea’s Emma Hayes, Manchester City’s Gareth Taylor, Brighton and Hove Albion’s Hope Powell and Birmingham City’s Carla Ward.
“I don’t deserve the nomination for a start,” she declared flatly. “I think there’s people more worthy of that award than me.
“If I was to get anything from it, it would be from my players and my staff. I’m not worthy of it.
“I reflect on the season as a big learning curve, and also with perspective. It’s only our fourth year next year.
“We are closer. [But] We’re not as close as I want to be.”
United appear to be set to narrowly miss out on Champions League football, sitting three points behind third-placed Arsenal with just two games left in the season.
And Stoney, with one eye already on adding reinforcements this summer, added: “We’ve set out to hit top three. We haven’t got it.
“So I’m the head coach of the team, I take responsibility for that. I’ll look at all angles.”