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Racial abuse of Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge under investigation, but is that enough?

As Chelsea, the FA, and the police investigate the apparent racial abuse of Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge, ask yourself what you can do to be the change you want to see in this world

Chelsea’s win over Manchester City has been marred by the apparent racial abuse suffered by Raheem Sterling. I have to say “apparent” because the incident is currently under investigation by the club, the FA, and the Metropolitan Police. The fan has been identified, but the “full facts” are still being established.

There is video evidence and while I cannot tell what is being said since I cannot read lips, others have no doubt that the f-bombs and the c-words are flowing freely, and are combined with other words that make this racial abuse rather than “just” a bit of industrial language. That this culture of abuse — and not only of the racial kind — persists among “supporters” (and not only of the opposition), is something that doesn’t get talked about much, unfortunately.

Ian Wright exclaims that “the bad old days are back”, but sadly, this is probably an every-match occurrence. It just doesn’t always get caught on camera. (And sometimes, as in the Rudiger incident last season, shockingly not even such evidence is enough for authorities to act.)

But this one did, and if proven true, Chelsea must respond strongly. Chelsea gave life-time bans to the “fans” involved in the Paris Metro incident and I would expect the same in this case — especially after all of Chelsea’s investment in and attention given to fighting antisemitism.

Regardless of the response, the fan’s actions reflect badly on the club and the rest of us fans. It shames the club, and the fans, just as Wright says. You might feel that’s harsh — “it wasn’t me” / “it’s just one bad apple” / etc — but ask yourself this, what would you have done if you were standing next to him?

In my few years as blog manager here at WAGNH, I’ve had to cover such incidents far too many times; frankly, I’m tired of just talking about the facts of the various situations. People who abuse, be that racially or otherwise, have no place in my club and it’s up to me (and you and all of us) to do what we can to ensure that they stay out of our club. Singing that Sterling “runs like a girl” is abuse, too, for example.

We share in the responsibility to make this world a better place. Banning fans found guilty of racial abuse is necessary, but will do little in the grand scheme of things. Their actions will be condemned; perhaps they will even face criminal charges. But then what? More thoughts and prayers? True change has to come from the actions of many.

And it also has to come from the people who control national conversations and narratives. Raheem Sterling is sadly no stranger to being abused, but even as he can laugh off one person, he cannot laugh off an entire segment of society targeting him and others like him.

There is a famous Twitter thread of just how poorly the UK tabloids portray Sterling. Is it any wonder that others feel just as empowered to abuse?

On Sunday, Sterling issued a statement regarding the incident, and he chose to focus on this overarching culture of abuse. The fan’s actions are symptom. A symptom of what we keep hoping is a bygone era (in the UK and the US and the rest of the world), but yet are regularly reminded that it’s alive and rather well. Whatever punishment may be meted out on the abuser personally is just a small part of the actions necessary for true change.

“I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to heard I will speak up.

“Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better.

“For example you have two young players starting out there careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing. Which is buy a new house for there mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the news papers get there message across for the young black player and then for the young white player.

“I think this in unacceptable both innocent have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light.

“Which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all I have to say is have a second though about fair publicity an give all players an equal chance.”

-Raheem Sterling; source: Instagram via talkSport

True change begins with you, me, us.

Be the change you want see in the world.

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