NFL and NBA Subreddits Go Private in Protest Against Reddit Policies [UPDATE]

A private r/nfl
A private r/nfl

The NFL and NBA subreddits went private today in protest against Reddit policies and Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, known as u/spez on the website. When a user attempts to access the subreddit, they see the following messages from the moderators of the two communities:

r/nfl
r/nfl
r/nba
r/nba

These two subreddits make up some of the largest in the Reddit communities, and were active as recently as earlier this afternoon. The NFL subreddit will become public once more tomorrow. It will remain to be seen if the NBA subreddit does the same.

Reddit, like all social media platforms, has struggled over the years to balance freedom of speech with preventing users with racist or hateful intentions to utilize the platform these companies offer. The moderators, who make up the backbone of the site by policing users for no compensation, clearly feel Reddit has not done its duty in that department. It remains unknown how many other of the thousands of subreddits on the website have joined r/nba and r/nfl in this endeavor.

A strong statement made by the men and women who make Reddit what it is. We'll see how Reddit responds.

UPDATE: Approximately 24 hours after the two subreddits went private, one came back online Wednesday afternoon. The moderators of the NBA subreddit posted the following on the message board:

As many of you know, r/nba has participated in a 24 hour blackout in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Though we are all members of a wonderful basketball community, we are also members of a global community that have the responsibility to fight against racism in all its forms, including on Reddit. We and many other subreddits called on the Reddit Admins to make concrete changes to the website to help deplatform users and subreddits that promote or tolerate racism and bigotry, and will sustain that call. Many of you shared thoughts, suggestions, and support for those fighting against institutional and systemic racism and injustice, and some of you shared the actions you're taking in support of these causes. We want to continue to show our support, and offer a platform for you to share the same thoughts, suggestions, and support with our greater community.

They also provided a list of organizations battling against police brutality, racial inequality, and other injustices for users to donate to.

The NFL subreddit went public once more about an hour and a half after the NBA subreddit. The moderators at r/nfl posted this message:

Reddit is a safe space for racism. The United States has a long-standing, inter-generational race relations issue. The internet has exacerbated this through euphemistic language - the technique which began with Barry Goldwater’s thinly disguised ‘states rights’ campaign is now commonplace and used every minute on this website to dismiss the concerns of ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQI+, and many others. Racism is an intrusion of cockroaches living in the walls of Reddit. You may see one skittering across the floor, or racing away after you disturb its hiding spot, but that’s only one of the greater den this website harbors. Over years of inaction, this website has continued to allow anti-ethnic sentiments and communities to fester, tucked away in their own safe spaces, venturing out to provoke, incense and recruit. /u/spez speaks against racism but every minute provides it a home on Reddit. /u/spez claims “the best defense against racism and other repugnant views, both on Reddit and in the world, is instead of trying to control what people can and cannot say through rules, is to repudiate these views in a free conversation, and empower our communities to do so on Reddit.” These communities are not empowered. The website is failing in its promise. You can’t have a free and open conversation when racist communities are able to stack the deck. Too often we have someone come in here and post something racist, get banned, and then we see them go into another 10 communities and do the same to mixed results, or work around Reddit to continue harassing people - either through PMs, through alt accounts, or through using their peers. Meanwhile, anyone who dares to venture onto that user’s cursed turf is banned immediately, subjected to ongoing harassment and in some cases doxxed and harassed in real life. It took over half a decade for c**ntown to get banned. r/AgainstHateSubreddits has an ongoing battle that /r/nfl supports them in fighting. Reddit’s leadership is silent and inattentive except for their once-a-year gesture accompanied with a post on /r/all of ‘hey we banned some subreddits that were annoying us because journalists wrote stories about them’.

As to why the NFL subreddit decided to act:

Racism is a Reddit-wide issue, and this subreddit experiences a lot more racism than users might realise. It’s unacceptable to sit idly by while this site grows racist groups. This sub has a racism problem. We have users who express open and covertly racist views, racial slurs pop up extremely frequently, and we are often brigaded by bad actors from other subreddits. The NFL has been central to the national discussion on racism. As a sporting body where the majority of players and staff are persons of colour, fighting racism is a common thread of advocacy within the league. Kneeling helped raise the #BlackLivesMatter discussion. Separating the league from this topic is a disservice to the work players have done.

The moderators also provided a list of changes Reddit should make in an all-hands meeting taking place on Thursday, as well as several links to foundations that battle racism and injustice, similar to the NBA subreddit.