Social media abuse is more about “skin color than merit,” says Crystal Palace’s Chris Richards

Crystal Palace defender Chris Richards accepts he will always be an easy target for online abuse – but claims no matter how the trolls try to demean you, they will never define who you are.

The 22-year-old American joined the Eagles from Bayern Munich in the summer and has made three Premier League appearances so far this season.

In an interview with the Palace Club website as part of the No Room for Racism campaign, Richards reflected on the ongoing heinous abuse that is leaking out on social media and also directly impacting his family.

“I’m just trying to tell (me) that these messages I’m getting aren’t a problem I have with these people, it’s a problem they have with me,” Richards said.

“I try to see it like this: ‘I go about my day, I’m fine, I just do my own thing.’ It’s a problem they have on their day, in their head all day.

“I can receive these messages and not think twice about it – but it’s harder for my family and friends to see these things because they want to protect me. When they see things about me, that connects with them too.”

Richards accepts that he will always be open to attacks from racist trolls.

“You’re not always going to show your best game and that’s why you sometimes get messages after tough games,” he said.

“I think as a black player you definitely expect to get more messages based on your skin color than your performance.

“[Replying]makes that person feel more powerful — they know those words got to you. I try my best not to beat myself up, but it’s a little harder with my family.

“I spoke to them about not listening to what people are saying after games.”

Richards added: “People try to put you down but they don’t know you. Don’t let their words define you. You very much have your own mojo, your own personality for you.

“Don’t let a few words ruin something you really don’t need to worry about.”

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Richards recalled the difficulties he faced working towards becoming a professional soccer player, eventually joining Major League Soccer club FC Dallas.

“Alabama in general is a very traditional state. It was the active center of the civil rights movement, so people back home still have a certain mindset,” the American said.

“I come from a mixed-race family: my mother is white and my father is black. Growing up was a bit difficult at some points. There were certain parts of Birmingham where you didn’t necessarily feel accepted.

“The people around me in Hoover have always made me feel welcome, but sometimes when we’re playing teams from other states or from other regions in the South, it’s still a very traditional mindset, so you’re a little bit would expect more (racist abuse).”

Richards signed for Bayern after a successful process in 2018 and was also on loan at Hoffenheim before his move to Selhurst Park.

The defender believes Palace – with Patrick Vieira, the only black manager in the Premier League and a versatile dressing room – represent a welcome united front in the ongoing fight for equality.

“It’s something I never grew up with. In Hoover, I was pretty much the only black kid that played football,” Richards said.

“So when I came to Europe you see a lot more, then especially a team like Palace – I feel like we represent London best.

“We’re different ethnicities, different people from different places, so I think it’s really refreshing to see that.

“It makes me feel more connected to the people around me because I know I’m not alone when I get these messages. These people have my back.” Social media abuse is more about “skin color than merit,” says Crystal Palace’s Chris Richards

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