Palace player Zaha wants action against online racial abuse

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match against Brighton & Hove Albion. (Nigel French/PA via AP)

LONDON — Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha wants “action” and “education” against the racial abuse that he and other Black athletes are regularly subject to on social media.

A 12-year-old boy was arrested on Sunday after the Ivory Coast international highlighted racist abuse he received ahead of Palace’s match at Aston Villa.

The messages and images referenced Zaha’s race and showed the Ku Klux Klan. They were sent on Instagram from a user who included central England-based club Villa in their name.

“People need to understand that whatever your age, that your behaviour and your words come with consequences and you cannot hide behind social media,” Zaha said in a post on Instagram on Monday.

Zaha said it’s time for “action” because this was not an isolated incident.

“This is not the first time I have received messages like this, nor am I the only player to receive messages like this — it happens every day,” he said.

“It is not enough to be disgusted by these messages I received and move on. It isn’t enough to just say #notoracism. We need action, we need education, things need to change.”

Zaha thanked the police and fans and called on social media platforms to do more.

“It is important social media platforms do as they did yesterday and seek out these individuals and remove them,” he said.

West Midlands Police said on Monday the boy “has been released under investigation while our enquiries continue.”

“Racism has no place in society and we’re attempting to contact the footballer to obtain a statement,” police said on Twitter.

Before kickoff at Villa Park, Zaha — like all players in recent weeks — took a knee as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

The Premier League has launched a reporting system to allow players to reveal abuse that can be followed up by authorities.

“This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the Premier League stands alongside Wilfried Zaha in opposing this, and discrimination in any form,” the league said in a statement. “We will continue to support players, managers, coaches and their family members who receive serious discriminatory online abuse.”

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