Leigh Griffiths racist Tweet: Are clubs doing enough to educate?

Scottish side Hibernian were plunged into a PR crisis this afternoon after 22 year striker Leigh Griffiths – on loan from English side Wolves – posted a racist tweet.

The current SPL leading goal scorer tweeted to user @Zak_Iqbal:

“f*** off back to your own country ya clown”

Wolves were quick to comment on the issue and the player has since apologised. Wolves stated:

“Wolves are aware of an alleged racist comment made on Twitter last night by Leigh Griffiths. The club condemns such comments in the strongest possible terms and are extremely angry and disappointed…The player is currently on loan at Hibernian FC and is likely to remain there for the rest of the season.

He is, therefore, subject to the disciplinary procedures of Hibernian FC and those of the Scottish Football Association. However, Wolves are in dialogue with Hibernian and are making their feelings known on the matter.”

Hibernian were also quick to criticise the player and condemned all acts of racism. Scottish police have always made a statement stating they are aware of the tweet.

This is yet another example of players continuing to stir up controversy and not understand the effects their Social Media comments have online. The striker who used the Twitter handle @LeighG28 has now protected his tweets to try hide past comments. With a following of 12,000 Twitter users, the tweet soon went viral and ended up trending across the UK. The tweet has since been deleted.

Whilst it is disappointing that players are still causing controversy, it is good to see football clubs like Wolves and Hibs act quickly to monitor, condemn and punish such acts. Reaction speed to a PR crisis is one of the most crucial elements of crisis managements and both clubs should be applauded with how they have dealt with the situation. However, the question still remains why the player posted what had and whether players need to undergo more extensive and aggressive Social Media training.

In fact, in 2011 we reported on the fact that Wolves had brought in a media law firm to help advise and train players in using Social Media properly. However, whether the club has continued this on a regular basis is unknown – Social Media training needs to be frequent and regular in order to ensure that new signings and promoted youth players are also kept in the loop.

We’ve long been an advocate that simply handing players  a list of rules will not stop instances like this – instead clubs must educate players about why these rules are important, what constitutes very clearly right and wrong – and also show them examples of a single tweet can tarnish a reputation in less than an hour. Equally, clubs must educate players around how good Social Media practice can be hugely beneficial for players in their life after football.

A punishment from either the SFA or the FA, or perhaps the court of law now awaits Leigh Griffiths.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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