Arsenal, Leeds slam ‘vile abuse’ as player’s family targeted

Arsenal and Leeds have both moved to denounce ‘vile abuse’ suffered by Nicolas Pepe and Ezgjan Alioski on social media.

The players were involved in an incident that saw Arsenal forward Pepe sent off for headbutting Alioski, who blocked his run towards the Leeds box during a 0-0 draw.

Mikel Arteta condemned Pepe for his actions and Ian Wright branded him “totally unprofessional”, but the player was subjected to abuse in the aftermath.

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Arsenal and Leeds both pledged to punish those responsible.

‘We utterly condemn the vile abuse directed at Nicolas Pepe and Ezgjan Alioski on social media following our match against Leeds United,’ read a statement on the former’s website.

‘This is completely unacceptable and we will be working with the police and authorities to do everything we can to trace and prosecute the culprits.’

A Leeds spokesperson added: ‘The vile abuse directed at Ezgjan Alioski and Nicolas Pepe on social media after yesterday’s Premier League game with Arsenal will not be tolerated by Leeds United.

‘We will work closely with the police and the footballing authorities to ensure those responsible are identified and punished.’

The Athletic report that Pepe and Alioski were victims of racial abuse, and that ‘there have also been threats directed towards Alioski’s family since the game’.

Sanjay Bhandari, chair at equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, said: “The abuse that Pepe and Alioski received on Twitter last night was completely unacceptable. We want to see action taken against the individuals behind these posts by Twitter and by law enforcements.

“Social media has become a battleground for hate, particularly with fans not currently in stadiums. We need to see consistent regulation by social media as many of those comments posted were predictable and could easily have been monitored and suppressed before they were even published causing distress to many. Hate speech is not free speech. It corrodes social cohesion and we are all victims of that.

“We will continue to work closely with social media companies to improve policies and practices. This is partly a technological problem so will require technological solutions. The social media giants are sufficiently well resourced to deal with these challenges.

“We know from experience that when there’s an incident in a match involving a black player such as a sending off, it is sadly predictable that online racist abuse will follow. We believe that in-game incidents should be monitored in real-time by social media and this should trigger a heightened state of monitoring for hateful content.

“We all have to take a stand against hate. We are pleased to see that Arsenal and Leeds are united in seeking to identify the individuals responsible. We hope the police now identify the perpetrators and the appropriate action is taken.”


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