Henry feeling "the strength of the pack" after spearheading social media boycott
He is the man who started a movement.
Five weeks ago today, without any fanfare, Thierry Henry posted on social that he would be leaving Twitter and Instagram until both address the widespread bullying and racism on their social media platforms.
Support for the France and Arsenal legend from other players and sporting bodies was conspicuous by its absence.
Some players, asked directly by supporters whether they’d join him, blustered about being able to stay connected to their fans. Others voiced their support but remained on their platforms.
Today, however, the entire sporting structure in this country – with many sponsors added – has united in an unprecedented show of solidarity to rally behind Henry.
“Sometimes when you're alone screaming something, you feel lonely,” said the 43-year-old. “But I'm not talking for me. I'm talking for the people that don't have a voice.
“I'm talking about the people that have been abused, harassed for the way they look, for what they believe in, the colour of the skin on social media.
“So at the time I felt: ‘Maybe if I come off social media, taking a stand for the people that don't maybe have a voice, maybe you can create a wave.
“I'm going to give again the example of the Super league. Everyone came together, it lasted two days.
“They showed everybody, everybody showed those clubs that they don't want it. You have to listen to the masses.”
Had Henry said his piece and remained on social media, football would indeed have praised him but the digital world would have continued turning.
Instead, despite the hit running into millions in terms of cash and page views, a collective blow is being landed by broadcasters, sponsors and leading sporting bodies including British racing, the Lawn Tennis Association and British Rugby.
Legislation in the form of the Online Harms Bill, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech next month, will define racism as a statutory online harm alongside anti-Semitism and the promotion of suicide or self-harm.
Change is coming.
The tech companies have been scrambling to launch a PR counter-offensive, insisting they are powerless to do more.
Instagram tried to PR their way out of a tricky situation, contacting Henry’s representatives for a meeting with the Hall of Fame inductee.
Henry was not interested. He simply wants action.
“In all fairness, I didn't want to be reached or not reached,” he went on. “We have so many, so many discussions. I just want action. That is it.
“What are we going to talk about? Telling me what you just put out recently? Was it going to be a discussion, by the way, or were you just going to tell me what was going to happen?”
What happened now is that the energy around fighting racism has moved into a new phase. Athletes are finding their voices. Companies are standing up to be counted. Fans are supporting their clubs rallying behind Henry.
To walk the million miles it will take to force change, the former striker has inspired the game to take the first few steps.
“I say again, it’s the strength of the pack,” he said. “I do believe that if the community comes together and wants a change, it might not happen overnight, but it will eventually happen.
“It has to be an intelligent, relentless effort. You have to come back and knock on the door. Knock on the door, knock, knock on the door until they open the door. There's a lot of knocking on the door, as you know, but eventually someone will open that door.”
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