As a fellow sportsman, I kneel with and applaud those in the NFL protests

first_imgEight years ago while I was in Miami visiting my wife Erica, I lost my passport and was advised to report it to the police. I went to the local station and explained my predicament to the officer behind the window, expecting to be given a mild rebuke and a form to fill in. I still feel disbelief and anger about what happened next.“I am not reporting your lost passport because there is no way you are British!” the officer shouted in my face before pulling down her shutter. I was refused my basic right to legal process because I’m black. My experience of police prejudice in 21st-century America is small and irritating by comparison to the incidents of brutality and discrimination against the black community that have sadly become daily news. Share on Facebook Share on WhatsApp Protest Lewis Hamilton joins chorus of support for NFL anthem protests Sport has and always will influence the way we think, behave and live our lives, and it has a power and popularity that any politician would give their right arm for. At a time when there often seems to be a disconnect between sports people and fans, whether you agree with these protests or not, we should be applauding athletes for standing up (or kneeling down) for their right to freedom of speech in front of the whole world.Of course professional sports people in our era are privileged but it’s sickening to hear them dismissed as “black millionaires” because they’re making a stand against injustice to their fellow countrymen, and their actions are following in the tradition of others who had the courage of their convictions. Sport involves people of every colour, creed, nationality, gender and religion on this planet. Sport is a talking and unifying point in every city, in every country on every continent.I kneel with and applaud the NFL athletes who are taking a peaceful stand for something they believe in and hope that the impact it’s having helps society progress and morally challenge itself – just like Owens, Ali, Mandela and countless others have done using the incredible power of sport. US sports Share via Email Donald Trump Those who dismiss them are either ignorant or part of the problem, and as a fellow sportsman I support and salute the men and women who have made their protest a focus of debate with their “take a knee” campaign across the United States raising awareness of social injustice.I cannot condone those who preach that sport and politics should not mix. Sport and the people who play it are part of the fabric of society and the billions who support their teams also vote for politicians.I’m no Usain Bolt or Cristiano Ronaldo but I take seriously my position as a professional footballer within our society because I’m aware that whether I’m on the field of play in a packed stadium or at the local supermarket doing my weekly shop, my behaviour is scrutinised by young people who are impressionable and looking to me as a role model in their community.The power and beauty of sport is an incredible phenomenon – it could be the winning goal in a World Cup final, a world record at the Olympics or the winning shot in a tennis grand slam – all invoke passion and emotions in the athletes and fans who elevate sports people to privileged status in our society.Everything they say and do is re-enacted by children all over the world and I expect that for most of us the first role model we had was an athlete, who would ignite your imagination and make you want to emulate them.For me, it was a picture I had as a kid on my bedroom wall, an iconic image that still inspires me today, of Bobby Moore and Pelé from the 1970 Mexico World Cup: shirts off, sweat dripping, smiling, two legends – one black and one white – embracing each other in mutual respect. I wanted to be just like them.The argument that is raging between Donald Trump and some of the most famous athletes in the US is whether sport has a right to criticise the establishment and get involved in the political and humanitarian issues that affect the people of their country. Those who support #TakeAKnee have been accused of being unpatriotic and disrespectful of the American flag and even the military who have served in defence of the US.Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and Stephen Curry along with other athletes were making a political statement during the national anthem in protest of the treatment that millions of their fellow citizens are suffering every day but the fact that the president has responded so antagonistically and intensely to peaceful protest is proof of just how influential sport is and can be.That he attacks sports people on a daily basis while saying little about the humanitarian tragedy caused by earthquakes in Puerto Rico and Mexico says much about Trump. Sport has always been a mirror of our people and society, and there are significant moments played out in an arena whose impact has caused major reverberations around the globe.Don’t we see Jesse Owens’ four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany as a victory for the free world? Or when Muhammad Ali appeared to throw away his boxing career in order to abstain from fighting in a Vietnam war that he didn’t agree with, was it for nothing? Even one of the most revered and respected men in modern history, Nelson Mandela, used the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa as a vehicle to attempt to unify a country ravaged by racism and apartheid rule. comment Share on Pinterestcenter_img Read more Football Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Read more NFL owners ‘are afraid of their players, and I think it’s disgraceful’ – Trump Share on Messenger Topics NFL Reuse this contentlast_img

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