The Den football stadium

How important is it for footballers to create social change using their profile? Writes Emmanuel Ladapo.

When you look at data such as google trends you can see that at times there is more interest in celebrities beefing with each other than reveals of investigations into police conduct. It is said by so many people all the time that we see so much of atrocities and wrongful conduct on social media and in traditional media that we are desensitized to it. Several important issues often aren’t given the attention that it deserves, how can this change? When public figures/celebrities speak up about social issues, it can draw more attention and more people can learn about what’s going on. Of course, this is just my own perspective, I wanted to find the perspective of people who I think would actually be in position to create more change.

I spoke to footballers Immanuelson Duku (York City) and Kareem Isiaka (Billericay Town) as well as charity worker at our streets now Chiamaka Elumogo about the role public figures such as footballers can have in increasing awareness over social issues.

Immanuelson Duku/York City

“I think raising more awareness is quite good as well, that brings out the awareness as we were talking about, people will think if they can do it, I should do it as well and other people should do it as well because not just footballers do the charity and I’m not telling anyone to do charity.

“Charity is always about helping people in need and for example I’m very strong in helping in need.

“If you can do it through social media and bring up awareness that other people realise that in a fair way that helping others is good but because sometimes the way certain people share it some people think “oh look at him he’s doing all of this.

“So doing it in a nice decent way that people don’t look at it in a bad way but in a positive way so whatever you’re showing you’re encouraging people as well.”    

Immanuelson Duku

On the Gary Lineker vs BBC fiasco

“When someone says something and it seems good everyone backs it but when something seems bad not actually bad but it seems that way like BBC  suddenly people are quick to take action because they thought it was bad, people have a right to freedom of speech, it’s their own opinion, there’s more people whose voices are not heard about the same thing, he’s talking for them, if he said something positive about the conservatives he would not have been suspended would he?

“When you go against a group of people it can look like you’re bad that’s why we have to back each other as the light will come out.

“Now he’s gotten back they’ve had to subtract from what they’ve did, it looks worse for the BBC, it doesn’t interfere with his job what Gary did, he does his job to his best, the BBC made a decision and it didn’t work out for them.”

I also spoke to Immanuelson about how effective he feels that Social issues being talked about on social media by football players:

“Everyone is different, it can be done on the loan or share, what you feel is good for yourself, social media helps spread contact, it’s what you feel like, if you are open fair play but others like it on the low as long as it’s done well that’s fair as well.”

An example of this is Marcus Rashford, using social media tweeting, even tweeting about the government, what was Immanuelson’s thoughts about this?

“Not everyone would do it, it’s amazing, people are always easy to criticize good work but to help others it’s such an amazing thing.”

Does he feel responsibility for himself to raise awareness?

“Depends on yourself, if you want to make it happen, I’m really strong on my faith and football, raised awareness in Yorke, done off the pitch stuff, you just fire it out.”  

Kareem Isiaka Billiricay Town

“Yes but people only listen to you if you get to a centre change, If Rashford wasn’t Rashford then I don’t think anyone takes what he was doing to a certain stage and level.”

 I also spoke to Charity worker at Our Streets now Chiamaka Elumogo, Our Streets now is an organization that works to protect women from sexual harassment, I asked her about her perspective as someone who works a lot on social issues how she feels about what public figures can do to increase awareness to the general public.

She said: “I guess my main thoughts would mean that obviously footballers are figures that a lot of the general public look at and really value their opinions and when they speak on certain issues.

“When they comment on issues about public safety, when you look at the Marcus Rashford food campaign or that sort of thing it can really begin to shine a spotlight on these issues, more people pay attention, more people are prompted to have conversations around the dinner table for example. Footballers can get a hold of concepts that are being spoke about not as much and it becomes something that people talk about on social media and goes into the newspapers as well it keeps conversations going and prompts people to think about it.”  

“I think as young people we can be drawn to what happens on Twitter and Facebook, to try and make a social change, you have to use whatever is at your disposal like endorsements from athletes and celebrities.

“The danger is that you can get a diluted message if some people don’t want to alienate their fanbase. This is not a footballer but if you watch Taylor Swift’s documentary on Netflix.  She’s a country singer at heart and country music fans are largely form the South of USA and they do tend to be Conservative/Republican, she endorsed Obama and has got huge backlash from that so now I think she prefers to be neutral.

Chiamaka Elumogo

“A caveat is that lot of celebrities don’t want to engage in stuff that can divide people and they don’t want to alienate fans, the main source of income for these public figures is fans, with footballers it may be different as fans follow the clubs strongly just as much as players so perhaps there’s less risk as fans will choose to support their favourite teams regardless of individuals players’ views.

“In the line of work I do against violence against women and girls There is nuance in the work we do as people get harassed because of race and sexuality, with celebrity endorsements it can get a bit blank these messages, you lose subtle things you only really know about if you work in the sector.”  

Could social media play a part and be more important for footballers to raise awareness. The ALS ice bucket challenge raised a lot of money, massively involved in by celebrities and that helped bring a lot more awareness towards ALS?

Chiamaka said: “With social media things go viral so easily, celebrities’ participating challenges helps people get inspired as if they’re doing you want to do it.

“Social media helps public figures feel closer to us, we get a more intimate view.

“It can be helpful for public figures such as footballers to support campaigns. After Sarah Everard was unfortunately murdered we got a lot of attention from celebrities like footballers speaking up about this because there was a lot of shock value from around the case,

“Young people view most things on social media, celebrity kerfuffle doesn’t always make it into headlines on national newspapers as it’s not really relevant, whereas the police report can affect the national image  there’s something there about the generational divide and national/print media vs social media, my mum doesn’t have Facebook so she doesn’t know about footballers beefing but she may hear more of stuff on the news such as BBC compared to my sister  who will know more about these kinds of things through tiktok etc. She’ll hear more about things on social media.   

“Especially the fans of the football club a player is playing for can help as people will be more likely to pay attention if they support that team.   

Do Chiamaka feel like there to be more attention from public figures like footballers on social issues?

“Unfortunately, people don’t pay as much attention until a tragedy happens or something shocking happens so our streets now would benefit from celebrity endorsements.” 

On whether social media or traditional media has a bigger impact

“I think doing the big Channel 4 or Sky news interviews elevates what someone is saying more to the national conversation, people talk on social media about what goes on in the national media, not as much the other way where national news media talks about what is going on in social media, talking about viral news on social media, national media feeds into social media buzz, talking to traditional news is probably more valuable in raising the profile of organisations based about social issues.” 

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