It's a crying shame to acknowledge just how prevalent online abuse has become over the years in ways that footballers like Jamal Lewis say 'they almost expect it'.

The 24-year-old Newcastle defender has been a big campaigner for online abuse and hatred as the issue continues to further embroil itself in football and in sport.

One in 10 people will have received online abuse in the last year according to recent stats issued as part of the campaign and there has been mounting pressure on social media companies to do more to combat silent abusers.

The social media blackout that clubs, media outlets and players took part in earlier this month raised huge awareness of the problem, but abusers still seem to be slipping through the cracks with a number of footballers still posting screenshots of abuse onto their social media accounts.

Ahead of the much anticipated Euro 2020 tournament in the summer, BT are launching a proactive campaign to educate people on the constructive use of social media and raise awareness of the impact it has on the sportsmen and woman we delight in watching. 

Fronting the campaign will be Hope United, a 26 man squad from the home nations that will act as pioneers for sweeping positive change throughout the tournament. 

Lewis joins plenty of other big names for Hope United including the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Marcus Rashford and Lucy Bronze with the team being managed by Rio Ferdinand. 

I sat down with Lewis to talk about living in an age where online abuse and hatred has become so secondary and how he hopes to change that with Hope United.

Why did you join Hope United?

“When I was contacted to be part of the Hope United team, it was something that I didn’t need to think twice about it. Online abuse has been a thing for a while now but I think it’s definitely come to light in the last couple of years or so.

“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed at the end of the day.

“Within the community that I play in with footballers, you see countless times where you see a lot of online hate, abuse and disgusting comments from accounts to many footballers so it was a no brainer for me when I got selected to represent Hope United. It’s something that needs to be addressed and footballers as a collective are standing against that.”

The Northern Echo:

When you receive online abuse, is each moment as shocking as the last?

“It’s down to the individual. Each individual has been subjected to different types of abuse. Thankfully not for me, but many footballers have been the subject of racism on their social accounts and it’s absolutely horrible.

“If I was to see that on my social account then it would be a shock to my system.

“For me, I would say it’s something that you almost become immune to. You almost expect it. It’s almost horrible to think about when you’re expecting online hate and abuse because it’s a great platform when it’s correctly.

“Obviously people are mistreating it and misusing it.”

Talk to us about what Hope United is and what they're going to be doing?

“Hope United is a collective of the home nations, a campaign that is running out for the Euro’s.

“The likes of Marcus Rashford, Jordan Henderson, myself and others as well.

“We’re shining a light on online hate and abuse and it’s a campaign to show that there’s a collective stand against it.

“We’re highlighting that there is a problem, and it’s not getting swept under the rug and we’re going to address it head on.

“It’s a great campaign and hopefully it reaches many people."

When you or team mates receive abuse, is there a moment of solidarity in the dressing room and is it hard to speak up?

“I think there has to be. For team mates and anyone involved in football as a collective.

“We all play in different teams but most of us receive online hate and criticism.

“This campaign is to show that no matter what kind of home nation you’re from or what team you support, we want Hope United to be your second team as a collective and as a driving force to this.

“The more people we get to join Hope United, the better because it’s a great campaign."

Is it all about educating people on using social media constructively?

“That’s the perfect word, using social media constructively is key.

“These platforms are great for interaction with fans and friends and family when used correctly.

“Unfortunately a lot of people out there are mistreating it. It’s cause for these types of issues to be addressed so it’s all about education and raising awareness."

The Northern Echo: Jamal Lewis tested positive for coronavirus in December

What do you make of the recent social media blackout and the impact it's made?

“Yeah it was a good start but I think there is a lot more work to be done.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to the social media platforms making a change.

“Whether that’s people having to provide more information to make accounts so they’re held accountable and you can actually be tracked down.

“There’s too many of these burner accounts where most of the online hate is happening from. I think that would be a great start.

“Even if online hate wasn’t being addressed I think they should’ve been doing that from the get-go.

“We can do what we can with our campaign and it’s great to raise awareness but it comes down to social platforms themselves."

It must be a real privelege to be asked to be a part of this campaign where you can help make sweeping positive changes?

“I’m hoping for positivity.

“I’m never one to hide away from criticism or whatever it is but take the criticism and then let’s go be positive and let’s see what we can do about it.

“I think a lot of people are coming from the other side of things and just want to be negative and almost forget the difference between criticism and hate. There’s a big difference between that.

“Being part of something like this will be able to shine the right light on the right side of things and show that there is a big difference between criticism and your opinion or hatred comments."

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 Together we can beat online hate.