Social media can be a powerful tool. Powerful, in no small part, because of the old cliche “a picture’s worth 1,000 words”. True, most of the best pictures on social media are of cats and dogs - let’s face it, people are the worst - but pictures, both moving and still, tell a powerful story on social media and have a power that I don’t think a lot of people realize.
It’s with that in mind that I show you this, which came, you’ll note, from Chelsea’s official Twitter feed Saturday night before Arsenal paid them a visit Sunday:
It's matchday! ⚽️#CHEARS pic.twitter.com/4jMPzGDLki— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 17, 2017
What you see there is Marcos Alonso absolutely destroying Hector Bellerin’s head, and the team Twitter account celebrating it as a great goal.
My anger at this is not of the empty, pearl-clutching variety. I understand that soccer is a physical game, and I understand that sometimes, things like that happen. And that’s OK, for what it is.
I’m angry at this for a lot of other reasons. For one, I’m not sure why a team would want to celebrate one of its players cleaning out another player; that seems counter to what we’ve come to know as how sports works these days. Clubs thrive on fair play and harmonious relations, and for a team to tweet out “IT’S A TERRIFIC GOAL” after Alonso laid into Bellerin’s head is pretty much the opposite of that.
The other main reason I’m angry about it is that the existence of this tweet, and the continued employment of the person who tweeted it, shows me (again) that the Premier League is not at all serious about brain injuries. Social media directors have been fired for much less - the Rockets’ social media guy got fired for this - and the fact that the neither Chelsea nor the Premier League removed the tweet of Alonso aggressively adding to Bellerin’s tau protein count speaks volumes about the league’s attitude towards these things.
Again: I understand that the game is physical. That’s not my issue. My issue is that teams, and through their passivity their leagues, should not celebrate aspects of that physicality that might actually cause lasting, post-career damage to one of the members of their own fraternity, even though that person wore different laundry and got in the way of a scoring opportunity.