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Son Heung-min racially abused on social media following Manchester United match

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Son is just the latest player in a list that is far too long

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min became the latest victim of racist abuse on social media following the team’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United.

The abuse seemingly stems from a moment in the 33rd minute, when Edinson Cavani had a goal taken away after a VAR check. Referee Chris Kavanagh made the call after ruling that Scott McTominay fouled Son before Cavani’s finish, ending the play.

This comes after Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær focused pre- and post-match on being “conned” by Spurs after Anthony Martial picked up a red card in the teams’ last meeting in October. After Sunday’s match, Solskjær continued the theme and spoke specifically about Son (per the Guardian):

I have to say if my son stays down like this for three minutes and he gets 10 of his mates around him if he gets that in the face from one of his other mates, and he needs 10 mates to help him up, he won’t get any food.

Tottenham offered its full support to Son on social media after the match, just a week after Davinson Sánchez received racist abuse on social media following the team’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle United.

It again spotlights the issue of racist abuse on social media, one many in the football world have been trying to combat for some time. It remains beyond upsetting that, week after week, groups of footballers are on the receiving end of racist abuse — they most certainly are not the only group facing it, either.

It is hard not to think about the fact that sports encourage a lot of negative thinking. Solskjær’s comments are beyond ridiculous — he’s exaggerating for the sake of exaggerating, because that’s otherwise a very stupid thing to say. He’s allowed to disagree with the call, though it remains a bit silly to do so when referees have made harsher calls on players for touching their opponents’ faces. It all gets a little worse considering United actually won the match 3-1, adding to a tribalistic attitude that is baked into the way we perceive the game.

I bring it up not because what Solskjær said is overtly racist, but because it reminds me of the Sky documentary Micah Richards: Tackling Racism (available on Peacock in the United States). Richards spoke to Alan Bush, an educational manager at Kick It Out, whose responsibilities include working with people who have committed acts of racism. A big takeaway from the conversation is Bush’s assessment that racism, for many, is just a way to throw off the opponent. This is not to absolve anyone committing racist abuse, but it’s clearly embedded into a culture of negativity that has not established limits. It is obviously within the confines of being a sports fan to not want other teams to succeed; racism is very different from that.

This, too, also falls on the social media companies. I am not trying to imply the solutions are particularly easy ones, but it feels wrong that the conversation has lasted as long as it has without the dynamics changing even a little bit. At the end of the day, even if the responsibility falls on many, why would social media companies not have any?