Eni Aluko says the abuse she suffered as a result of Joey Barton’s social media posts left her fearing for her safety and frightened to leave home.
The former England striker revealed she is taking legal action after Barton compared her and fellow ITV pundit Lucy Ward to serial killers Fred and Rose West.
Aluko, who Barton also likened to dictators Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot, warned against the dangers of online abuse and worries the issue could lead to a female broadcaster taking their own life.
“Now, I’m open and honest and I’m human and I’m more than happy to admit that I’ve been scared this week,” she said in a 15-minute video posted on Instagram.
“I’ve genuinely been scared this week. I didn’t leave my house until Friday and I’m now abroad.
“It’s really important to say that online abuse has a direct impact on your safety and how you feel and how safe you feel in real life.
“I’ve felt under threat this week. I’ve felt like something is going to happen to me. And I don’t say that for anyone to feel sorry for me – I say that for people to understand the reality and the impact that hate speech has, the impact that racism has, the impact that sexism has, the impact that misogyny has on all of us females in the game, in sports broadcasting.
“That’s the real impact – and it’s not an isolated incident, this is now showing up as a culture in the game, from certain fan bases and certain people.
“They’re creating a culture where people don’t want to go to work, people don’t want to leave their house, people feel under threat. Obviously there’s a big impact on mental health as well.”
ITV criticised Barton for targeting Aluko and Ward with “vindictive remarks” following coverage of Crystal Palace’s FA Cup third-round tie with Everton on January 4.
While Aluko did not mention once-capped England midfielder Barton by name, she accused him of being sexist, racist and misogynistic and of having a “violent history”.
The 36-year-old also referenced the late television presenter Caroline Flack, who died by suicide in 2020, when outlining her concerns.
“If you come out and are racist, or sexist or misogynistic and threaten people online, there are laws for that, that govern that behaviour, so it’s not free (speech),” she said.
“There are consequences for that. And over the past week I’ve taken advice from lawyers and a course of action has now been decided upon.”
She added: “My fear, actually, is that the next time this happens, if we don’t really put a stop to this, is that that girl or that woman kills herself.
“I’m not being hyperbolic about that when I say that it’s happened. Caroline Flack, God rest her soul, killed herself, largely because of the online abuse that she was getting.
“At what point are we going to understand that this needs to stop? Sexism, racism, misogyny is not an opinion. It’s not freedom of speech. It’s against the law. It’s as simple as that.”