Raheem Sterling: As he struggles with racial injustice, the Manchester City star says he ‘doesn’t think about his job’

“I don’t really think about my job when things like this happen. I think about what’s right and at the moment, you know, only so many people can take it,” the 25-year-old English international told BBC Newsnight, reflecting on global protests that were caused by the death of George Floyd.

“It’s been going on for hundreds of years and people are tired. People are ready for change. I keep saying this word.

“I see a lot of people from social life and things that support the thing, but it’s something that needs more than just conversation. We have to actually implement change.”

Better representation

After subjected to racist abuse of fans during a match against Chelsea in the English Premier League in 2018, Sterling accused the newspaper “inciting racism” with his portrait of young black football players.

While acknowledging that the protests after Floyd’s death were a “great starting point” in sparkling conversations, he says the real change will only happen when blacks are better represented in authoritative positions.

“There are something like 500 players in the Premier League, and a third of them are black and we have no idea in the hierarchy, we are not in the coaching staff,” he said.

“There aren’t a lot of people we could be in a relationship with and talk to.”

Nuno Espirito Santo of Wolves is currently the only active manager from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) position in the English Premier League after Chris Hughton fired Brighton in 2019.

Hughton believes long-held racist stereotypes have led to the loss of influential black players who could be management role models for future generations.

“The disappointing fact is that we have not made such progress,” Hughton said he told CNN, “Especially in an age where more has been said than ever before.”

Sterling used four previous Premier League stars – Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole – who all enjoyed a successful career.

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However, Rangers manager Gerrard and Chelsea boss Lampard are the only ones who have been given the opportunity to manage in elite clubs.

“At the same time, everyone has respectfully done their coaching badges to train at the highest level, and the two who didn’t get the right opportunities are two black players,” Sterling said.

‘We want to find a solution’

Thousands turned out to have participated in Black Lives Matter marches in UK capitals such as London, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh, despite government advice that people should avoid mass demonstrations.

While leading ministers criticize the protesters for the breakdown of social distance measures, Sterling says people have a right to participate and that “the only disease at the moment is racism that we are fighting.”

“It’s the most important thing at this point in time, because it’s been happening for years and years,” he said.

“Just like a pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it.

“At the same time, all the protesters are doing this. They are trying to find a solution and a way to stop the injustice they see, and they are fighting for their cause.

“As long as they do it peacefully and safely, without hurting anyone or breaking into any store, they continue to protest in this peaceful way.”

Although protests in the UK were largely peaceful, some warmed up on Saturday as activists and police clashed near Downing Street. In Bristol, activists tore down a statue of 17th-century goods owner Edward Colston.

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Take a position

Like Sterling, sports people around the world spoke loudly after Floyd’s death.

His England teammate Jadon Sancho showed up “Justice for George Floyd” top after scoring for Borussia Dortmund in Germany while the NFL star Von Miller and in 2019, NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo attended rallies.

“It’s something I will continue to work on and encourage these debates and make people in my industry look at themselves and think about what they can do to give people equal opportunities in this country,” Sterling added.

“I hope other industries can do the same, as well as everyday society and the system.

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