Raheem Sterling was publicly subjected to racial taunts while Manchester City visited Chelsea on Saturday, and it has ignited further discussion on the prevalence of racism in the sport.
Prior to the match between Newcastle and Wolves on Sunday morning, the NBC pregame show took time to address the incident and its greater connotation to society. Robbie Earle did not mince words, driving straight into the heart of the problem that soccer faces today, and saying the game has taken a step back in its fight against racism.
“It’s such a pity, Rebecca,” Earle said when asked if the game has gone backwards, sometimes choking back emotion. “I worked during the mid-90’s with a number of prominent black and white players with organizations in English football to work hard to stamp out racism…there was a movement to eradicate it from the game. 25 years on, people are saying ‘is it a one-off incident?’ One-off is one too many. The most difficult thing for me to say is I failed Raheem Sterling and I failed the group behind him, and that’s the most difficult thing of all because we thought we had this thing nailed, and we haven’t. It’s a cancer, Rebecca, and cancers – unless you stay on top of them, unless you’re vigilant – will come back, and it’s starting to creep into English football, and it’s such a shame.”
Sterling responded to the incident on Instagram, linking slanted media coverage of black players to the abuse they face on and off the pitch.
“Laughing things off, when you’re inside and its hurting, you do the wry smile as if ‘well, I have to accept this, this is how it is’ and that should never be the case,” Earle said. “Raheem Sterling should never have to laugh off when people are shouting racial abuse at him. He’s getting abused because of where he lives, how much money he earns, that he moves to another football club. Again, I have to go back and say, it’s almost like we need to start again, we need to address this and make sure this isn’t something that starts to grow in our game, because we saw it through the 80’s and 90’s in the game, and it was something that has no place whatsoever.”
Earle said he’s “disappointed that we’re having this discussion today” and said he spoke to players in the game today who feel that Sterling’s point about slanted media coverage is on target. “He felt at this point he has to put himself forward,” Earle said, despite Sterling’s relative shyness when it comes to publicity.