Hope United: Scotland stars Rebecca Sellar and Andy Robertson join forces to tackle online abuse

Scotland para-footballer Rebecca Sellar is looking to stand out online hate with Hope United campaign.Scotland para-footballer Rebecca Sellar is looking to stand out online hate with Hope United campaign.
Scotland para-footballer Rebecca Sellar is looking to stand out online hate with Hope United campaign.
Scottish para-football star Rebecca Sellar has joined forces with football’s leading names in order to tackle online abuse once and for all as part of BT’s Hope United campaign.

“Football is a passion, but the online abuse keeps ramping up. It's taking the sport down a notch. Players aren’t going to want to be involved with the sport anymore” says Inspirational Scottish para-footballer Rebecca Sellar.

Sellar is used to tackling the toughest of challenges, however, this year she is determined to achieve her ultimate goal of finally conquering online abuse, after joining forces with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Andy Robertson and Lucy Bronze as part of BT’s Hope United campaign.

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Hope United, which is comprised of male and female footballers from the Home Nations, has seen the biggest names in British football drawn together by their own personal experiences of online hate in a bid to drive change and educate the nation on how to protect themselves and be good digital citizens.

Front and centre of the initiative is the inspirational Rebecca Sellar.

Multi-talented athlete

Born in Motherwell, Sellar is a multi-talented para-athlete who has represented Scotland across numerous sports, featuring in National Wheelchair Tennis Series in 2017, she is currently the only woman who plays amputee football for Scotland.

Her story is one of courage and bravery that inspires many.

The full line up of stars looking to stamp out online abuse.The full line up of stars looking to stamp out online abuse.
The full line up of stars looking to stamp out online abuse.

Sadly, as the footballer tells us, online abuse has still tried its best to steal the hope she is giving to many.

But with Hope United, she is determined to ensure trolls become a thing of the past.

"I think I was in a slightly different boat to other footballers. Because I was disabled person, there's been other instances before I even moved into disability sport,” she said.

"I had received abuse even before I got into para sport in my early 20s. Photos, pictures and gifs were made up. I even use to get fetishists who tried to get content from me, they'd take content from amputees and share them.

"They would sexualize my disability, so I had hidden all my content before I got into para-sport. Everything was private with no full length pictures of me.

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"When I got into para-sport, I wanted to share my story but I knew what I was going to have to open myself up to. I had to prepare myself. There're people who have thrown nonsense in my direction, but we have to keep going.

Tackling online abuse from trolls

"Almost all of it is from faceless, nameless accounts. There's barely anyone in a real life setting that would ever feel it socially acceptable to act the way they do online.

"There's no point trying to directly face it. People would only ever do it in a scenario where they would get away with it.”

And while Sellar admits she has grown a thick skin to many of the comments, she is concerned that the consistent abuse many athletes receive online could stop fellow amputees from following their own dreams.

“You can gain so many positive comments, but I think it's human nature that when you get the bad ones, it can rock our boat.

"I've found myself distraught at being attacked and having no voice to speak back. I've had to be resilient. Sometimes you want to step back from it all, but you want to do things in your life.

“Players aren’t going to want to come into the sport, push themselves and further themselves (if online abuse continues).

"It's so insignificant, it should never influence any part of the game, but it will and it's pushing players and fans away.

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"We should be in a place where players are never affected in this way. I'm happy to take some of the weight from it all. There's no other Scottish female footballers that are amputees, because it's so hard to come into the limelight because it will invite this sort of problem. That's why I find it so important to do this.”

BT’s Hope United will rally the UK to tackle online abuse as part BT’s commitment to digitally upskill the nation. To find out more about how you can play your part, watch BT's Tech Tips at bt.com/hopeunited. Together we can beat online hate.

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