White footballers like Harry Kane need to speak out against racism in the game as the problem has got “worse” with the advent of social media, senior ex-players have said.
Former England international Paul Parker and Jamaica and Wimbledon ex-striker Marcus Gayle called on white players to take more responsibility for tackling racism.
And Gayle said the problem was worse now because racists can be more prolific hiding behind anonymity on social media, to the point where black and minority ethnic players are considering giving up the game.
They spoke out at the Labour party conference in Brighton with racism dominating football news in a manner not seen in decades.
Last week, ex-Newcastle United forward Peter Beardsley was suspended from football for eight months for making racist comments to players while coaching the club’s under-23s, including calling one black player “a monkey” and joking about climbing trees.
Former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has also been subjected to racist chanting by Cagliari fans while playing against his Internazionale side in Italy’s Serie A.
Last season, England players including Raheem Sterling had racist chants directed towards them at a match in Montenegro, while a Tottenham fan threw a banana skin as black striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalised against the supporter’s team for Arsenal.
Gayle, who told the audience he kept quiet about the racism he suffered as a footballer for fear of being branded a troublemaker by coaches, said players were suffering more frequent abuse due to the growth of social media.
“Players are getting hammered,” he told a Mirror fringe event.
“Players are willing to stop playing the game that they love and make that decision.
“We’re here in 2019, I think the problem is worse now with the advent of social media.
“Everyone thinks they’ve got an opinion, which we do have, but it doesn’t mean you have to put it out on a public platform.
In March, Kane indicated that he would be willing to walk off the pitch alongside his teammates if they were suffering racist abuse during a match.
But Gayle, who made more than 500 senior appearances, said white players still need to do more.
“Together, we need more to be done, because there’s going to be many different types of ingredients to fix this problem, but we all need to be responsible
“It’s not just about black players talking out.
“We need senior white players talking out, we need that support.
“Look at the England manager, Gareth Southgate, he never ducks a question, that’s a positive, that helps support the players that go through these times.
“We do need a Harry Kane, we do need the captain of the country as well showing his supply line, and they are his supply line – young Sterling, young Sancho – if they decide to say you know what, we ain’t getting nowhere with this, who steps up? Harry Kane, because it’s everybody’s problem.”
Parker, who won titles with Manchester United and helped England reach the World Cup semi-finals in 1990, agreed.
He said: “I don’t think we’re going to change people’s minds that quickly putting t-shirts on once or twice during a football season.
“I have always asked that question – why I do not see white people, white ex-players involved?
“I believe people have no way of knowing, they are not racist, but I still think that if they were to say something and speak up, I think that would definitely add something.”