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New study finds professional soccer, basketball players 'suffer horrific online abuse'

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Posted at 12:01 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 15:15:40-04

A new study released Tuesday found that athletes' performance and mental well-being in professional soccer and basketball suffer due to "horrific work-related online abuse."

The study was commissioned by FIFPRO, the union representing worldwide footballers, and the unions representing players in the NBA and the WNBA.

The report used Artificial Intelligence to track social media accounts between May to September 2021 to cover 80 players in each sport with a combined following of approximately 200 million followers on Twitter.

It found that from July to September 2021, 1,455 accounts sent 1,558 abusive posts to

The data collected found that 648 abusive tweets were directed at NBA players, 85 offensive tweets were directed at WNBA players, 427 mean tweets were directed at men soccer players, and 398 abusive tweets were directed at women soccer players.

“This report highlights that some of the most abused players were targeted as they changed clubs whilst others saw abuse in relation to on-field issues,“ said David Aganzo, president of FIFPRO, in a news release. “While the analysts also recognized players being targeted due to club rivalries or perceptions of their character, we must seek better cooperation amongst all stakeholders in the game to better protect those people that create the game in the first place.”

The study also found that racist and homophobic abuse accounted for the most extensive abuse directed towards men soccer players, 85%, and 74% directed to basketball players.

The report found that four out of five instances of abuse targeted at WNBA players included sexually explicit or harassment messages.

"What I hope comes out of this report is a heightened sense of responsibility across all social media platforms,” said Terri Carmichael Jackson, Executive Director, WNBPA. “And I want to have honest conversations with potential new partners to help them understand that an athlete’s social media engagement may not be the determinable or relevant factor when considering her for marketing opportunities."