Two weeks ago League Two goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux was racially abused by a fan on social media. In his own words, he talks about the raw emotion he felt and how we can move forward to a better future.
Hi, I’m Andrew and this is the Playmaker.
One story, every day, to make sense of the world of football.
Today’s Playmaker is about racism in football. Yes, it’s a familiar issue but it’s potent and important.
Normally, you’d be listening to me but today we thought it more appropriate to hear from someone at the sharp end of racist abuse.
Meet Lawrence Vigouroux, a British-born goalkeeper of Chilean and Jamaican descent, who’s been on the books of Liverpool and Tottenham and is currently playing for Leyton Orient.
Earlier this month, Orient played at Port Vale. And immediately after the game Lawrence looked at his social media feeds. He was being abused. We are not going to repeat most of it, but it included an invitation to “get back to Zimbabwe.”
In response, Lawrence posted screenshots of the abuse on his own channels with the caption: “Football is such a beautiful game ruined by people like this.”
Today’s episode of the Playmaker is Lawrence Vigouroux himself, in his own words.
Lawrence Vigouroux: It’s sad really, because you know, I’m someone that can deal with a lot mentally…
I’ve been told that I’m rubbish countless times which is not a problem, that’s people’s opinions. Like, that doesn’t bother me, you know, but what bothers me is, is looking past that and looking at my skin colour which, I mean, I can’t change.
So I just went on the coach and literally like everyone does, put on their social media, and I was getting a lot of comments. You know people saying that I’m rubbish and this and that. But you know, like a few, a few stuck out really and I just read them and I just seen that the racial abuse and to be fair, like I thought it was in my best interest and everyone really to just put that out there that, that stuff like that is still going on.
I showed it to a few of the boys on the coach, and I just asked, I wanted to make sure that what I read… it was racist.
So I just asked them, said: “This, this is racist isn’t it?” Everyone kind of agreed with me and then I showed the staff and and I just thought you know what like, instead of hiding it, I think people need to be held accountable for what they say especially online in private messages the same way we would be held accountable if we wish to message a fan and swear or whatever you know. I think we have to be held accountable for our actions.
I put it out there once I’ve got the green light from everybody, I especially spoke to the senior players here, and they said “You’ve got to get it out there”. The way the world is now, you know, you need to be putting it, be seen to be putting it out there because we’re you know, we’re role models. And we need to be showing people what’s wrong.
That’s another aspect that is quite sad, you know, like, especially for the black players. You know, if we make a mistake, we know we made a mistake, we don’t want to be called out because of our skin colour.
But, you know, I think as footballers, we have to be able to deal with, you know, with fans calling us rubbish. That’s normal life. But that’s something that you can say about anyone, like, somebody, sometimes, you know, people don’t do their job, right.
Or they might make a mistake, they don’t mean to make a mistake, you know, it’s just, that’s football, you know, is a game and not everything is going to be perfect.
But like I was saying in the tweet, football’s… I love playing football, you know, I’m someone I dreamed of doing when I was a little boy and the joy that is given me throughout my career, I can’t match it with anything else, you know. So I, it was sad for me, because it was the first time that I put it out there that it happened to me. And you know, enough was enough.
I’m not stupid enough to think it’s just me that gets abused racially, or gets abused, homophobic, or whatever happens on the pitch, but I just want people to be more just just to be more active and putting it out there, you know, that these things happen, you know, is common.
And it’s something that needs to be stopped and eradicated. And you know, you have a lot of well, footballers, we have a lot of support from the PFA and Kick It Out and loads of these organisations that can offer support, but I feel like we need to be more proactive as well and in in putting it out there so that these people can get punished.
Because otherwise, it will just be the same thing every day, you know, every time something happens, we need to be seen in action, you know, and that’s what we’re, that’s what we’re waiting for. And hopefully going forward. That’s what will happen.
I think everyone has to be held accountable. You know, I think social media companies, yeah, before people were doing it anonymously thing now people don’t even care, you know, like, that’s, that’s for me the saddest as well that, you know, people used to hide behind the Twitter egg or an Instagram photo that was just a head, like a plain head or whatever it was.
And now it’s just anyone saying it on their account picture with their partner or their sister or whatever, they don’t even care so I think it’s very easy to blame the social media companies, but I feel like everybody needs to be you know, it needs to be held accountable whoever is you know, people in football, hire people in football and then again, we can go to it’s easier once you have the support of the prominent members of your club or the FA is much easier to go to the social media with a case platforms and you know, demand change.
I’m born this colour you know, I’m proud to be a black guy you know, in society so you know it’s not it’s not a problem it’s just I don’t I don’t want two people to look at me and first thing they look at is skin colour because it’s not right you know and I don’t think that that we’re not going to achieve anything by by looking at us as a skin colours you know, I think that’s that’s a big problem at the minute and I hope you know, going forward things can change.
The Port Vale fan who sent the abusive messages to Lawrence Vigouroux was this week given an indefinite ban, effective immediately, pending the outcome of police investigations into the matter.
Today’s episode was written by Andrew Butler, and produced by Studio Klong.