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ARSENAL managed to stir up a storm of criticism at the weekend but off the pitch after their victory in the north London derby.
At the centre of it all is Daily Mail sports journalist Adam Crafton, who had written an article before the match in which he picked a combined Arsenal-Tottenham starting XI consisting entirely of Spurs players.
Having won, the official Arsenal account on Twitter replied to Crafton’s link to his article with a wink and an animated image of striker Mesut Ozil sipping tea.
It kicked off a torrent of attacks on Crafton by the Gunners faithful.
“I picked a team. Arsenal won. I look a bit silly. Congrats to Arsenal,” tweeted Crafton. “But since they tweeted it to 12m people, I’ve had all-day harassment on here, including anti-semitic, homophobic abuse & people wishing me dead.
“I can handle it but would not advise clubs repeat this.”
Now, clearly, abuse online is not acceptable.
That said, Crafton had clearly intended to provoke by only choosing Spurs players, to cause a stir over and above what these contentious fantasy teams usually create.
That’s fine, you want your articles to be read and for people to react, be it positively or negatively. It means you hit a nerve. Clickbait articles — and that’s exactly what this was — written to anger fans will anger fans. He had to see this coming.
But what level of responsibility do Arsenal bear for the abuse Crafton received? Many feel that, by nudging their fans in his direction, they knew what was going to happen. Others absolved the club of all blame, that what they did was just “banter” and how would they know their fans would react in this way?
I fall on the latter side of the argument. The Gunners cannot be held responsible for what their fans do outside the ground. Had the Daily Mail account tweeted the article and it elicited that response, would they be at fault?
And of course it’s quite ironic that a Daily Mail reporter is upset his article had this effect, given the content of the hate rag and its own record of stirring up anger and resentment.
Many have blamed Arsenal for “releasing their hounds” on the young reporter. But isn’t that what his paper does? When they blame migrants for rising crime or say that migrants are “coming over here and stealing our jobs.”
But regardless, Crafton didn’t deserve that. Especially when he admitted that at first he found it funny. Until the abuse got too much, at which point he didn’t like it any more and blamed the club.
They didn’t ask for that article to be written and, as mentioned, surely he knew what would happen the moment he wrote it. Especially if Tottenham went on to lose, which they did.
If Twitter did a better job of policing their platform and actually punished those who send hateful, violent messages then perhaps you would see more social interaction between clubs, fans and reporters.
I know the social media team at Arsenal and they are lovely people, always up for a laugh and, given some of the articles written about the team and what people tweet at them, I am sure they want to respond with light-hearted gifs and comments more often.
And Arsenal’s joking response pales in comparison to the hatred and anger whipped up elsewhere on Twitter. The obvious answer is the current US president.
Sticking only to sport, Donald Trump has repeatedly and deliberately targeted athletes for hate, demanding again this week that American football players be disciplined for protesting against racial inequality.
On Monday it was Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders. Trump knows full well his band of racist followers will go after Lynch. He’s done the same to Colin Kaepernick and other black people who have spoken out against him.
But nothing about Roy Moore, candidate for US senate and alleged child abuser, or the gunman who shot at a primary school and killed his wife. Both white men. Had Trumped tweeted about them, he may have set his followers on them and drawn attention to their actions.
In the case of Crafton and Arsenal, the club did nothing wrong. And to be extremely blunt and cold, if Crafton can’t handle the heat then he shouldn’t have been in the kitchen in the first place.
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