Blair Kinghorn calls for an end to ‘toxic’ online abuse and reveals how he suffered as a young player

Blair Kinghorn hopes this weekend’s social media boycott will raise awareness of how “toxic” online abuse can be in sport.

Blair Kinghorn in action against Zebre in the Rainbow Cup. Edinburgh face Glasgow Warriors next in an 1872 Cup decider. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
Blair Kinghorn in action against Zebre in the Rainbow Cup. Edinburgh face Glasgow Warriors next in an 1872 Cup decider. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

The Edinburgh and Scotland player has suffered at the hands of keyboard warriors and knows how tough it can be, particularly for younger players.

Kinghorn believes the blackout can help change the culture of abusing sportspeople online. As he says, no player sets out to have a bad game.

Scottish Rugby is backing the boycott, and Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors’ social media accounts will be inactive until 11.59pm on Monday night.

Blair Kinghorn training with Edinburgh. He is in line to make his 100th appearance for the club. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

“I support it 100 per cent,” said Kinghorn. “We had a meeting and everyone’s on board with it. I’m a big user of social media and I know how toxic that environment can be, especially after you’ve had a bad game.”

The full-back was abused on Twitter while playing age-grade rugby for Scotland, a sharp introduction for a young player to one of the darker sides of professional sport.

“I got it when I was at the under-20 World Cup and I wasn’t performing. I’d played a fair few games for Edinburgh by then,” he explained.

“When I underperformed at under-20 level I seemed to get it pretty tight on Twitter. I don’t search or go looking for things but often when people tag you they pop up. You try not to think anything of it but it definitely does affect you, especially if you’re a young lad. It’s not what you need to see.

“Nobody needs to be that harsh on young lads getting their first runs. I don’t understand why people do it. It’s just sometimes the way the world works sadly.”

The social media boycott started on Friday afternoon as athletes, clubs and governing bodies from a range of sports joined forces to send a message that online abuse will not be tolerated.

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All those involved – including broadcasters and sponsors with links to sport – have proposed a near-total blackout on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels. Kinghorn hopes it has the desired effect.

“Hopefully people will get an idea of just how powerful those sitting at their keyboards are. We’re just people at the end of the day - we don’t try to play bad!

“I think performance issues… that’s one thing but being racist, homophobic or derogatory in any terms is just completely unacceptable. So hopefully this brings some light to it.”

Breaking through at such a young age, Kinghorn has had to grow up quickly and it is easy to forget he is just 24. He has already won 25 caps for Scotland and is in line to make his 100th appearance for Edinburgh in Friday night’s 1872 Cup decider against Glasgow at Scotstoun.

It is a landmark moment and he is looking forward to joining “a special group of players” who have become club centurions.

“I was speaking to Chris Dean about it and he got his hundredth cap earlier in the season, as did Tom Brown, so it’ll be good to have three Accies lads getting to one hundred caps for Edinburgh.”

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