Fans stand with Cyrus Christie as he returns to Middlesbrough after racist abuse
Cyrus Christie received a hero's welcome during his first club game since taking a stand against racist abuse levelled at him on social media.
Fans sang Christie's name throughout Middlesbrough's 2-0 victory over Birmingham on Wednesday, while supporters' group, the Red Faction, displayed a flag at the Riverside Stadium showing their support.
"We stand with Cyrus," the flag said. Pictures of the banner were widely shared on social media. Christie started the game and featured prominently in his side's win.
It comes as arrangements are being put in place for the player to fly back to Ireland to meet with gardaí to make an official complaint about the racist abuse.
Vile messages were sent to Christie on Twitter after Ireland's defeat to Denmark in a World Cup play-off.
Former players and teammates have sprung to the player's defence since he received the hateful messages.
Some of the messages used the word "n****r" and told the player to play for Jamaica. Other messages referenced lynching. It is understood representations were made to Twitter on Christie's behalf by the FAI.
However, the social media company has continuously failed to comment on how it dealt with complaints, despite numerous queries from the Irish Independent.
Twitter has failed to answer how many accounts were sending abuse to Christie, where these accounts were located, if any accounts have been shut down, and what actions it is taking.
Despite the player's decision to release a statement and take a public stand on the issue, a Twitter spokesman insisted it won't comment for reasons of "privacy" and "security".
The company has pointed to "strictly enforced" policies on hateful conduct, based on traits such as race. It has also pointed to procedures it has in place for law enforcement agencies.
However, when asked to explain how these polices were working in practice, to deal with the abuse against Christie, Twitter has refused to do so. Yesterday, the spokesman issued a statement in which he spoke about freedom of expression.
"Freedom of expression means little if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.
"We do not tolerate behaviour that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another person's voice," the statement said.
It said it has policies against hateful conduct by users of the site.