Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling have changed the perception of Black footballers but continued progress in the fight against racism is only possible “when white people get involved”, says Ian Wright.
Manchester United forward Rashford was made an MBE last year for services to vulnerable children in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, while Manchester City player Sterling received the same recognition for services to equality in sport.
Despite persistent examples of racial discrimination in football, former Arsenal striker Wright, 57, thinks positive developments are being made but would like action to be swifter.
“Back in our day, if you got racially abused or something, you’d have to deal with that yourself but now that can’t happen,” Wright told PA Media.
“It’s people like Marcus Rashford, he changed the course of how people write about Black players, and Raheem Sterling – that’s power. They’ve got that power.
“They’re not only magnificent footballers, they’ve got a social conscience and they’ve got massive platforms where when they say something, people listen, and that’s what happens nowadays.
“And what you see is everybody comes together when this happens now and this is how things change. Things are moving, not as quickly as they should be, but they are moving.
“Things only change when white people get involved. If it was down to Black people, we would still be (constantly) being racially abused. We can’t change it alone.”
Wright was speaking as he marked the ongoing Black History Month by celebrating three generations of footballers in a short film made alongside son Shaun Wright-Phillips and grandson D’Margio Wright-Phillips.
With D’Margio Wright-Phillips pushing for a senior debut at Championship club Stoke, Wright has genuine fears his 20-year-old grandson will endure racism as he and his Premier League-winning son Shaun did from the terraces.
Wright, whose other son, Bradley Wright-Phillips, plays in the MLS for Columbus Crew after beginning his career at Manchester City, expressed disappointment earlier this year after a man who racially abused him online escaped a criminal conviction.
“To have three generations playing football is amazing, I’m very proud of that, I’m very proud of them,” said Wright.
“(But) one of the things I think about all the time is the racism side of it. Three generations, are we all going to have it?
“The fact we are here, after all these years, and we’re still talking about maybe my grandson getting racially abused, it just shows how far we’ve got to go.
“What I’m pleased with with D’Margio, he’s got people that will help him – me and Shaun didn’t have those people in the dressing room. He’s got people that are willing to walk off, if that’s what they have to do.
“And that’s where we know things are changing – slowly, but they are changing.”
Wright wants greater Black representation in positions of power as he praised recent solidarity shown by “white allies” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and Burnley captain Ben Mee.
“We still need Black people to get into certain offices high up to make change – and that’s still not happening because if it was we wouldn’t be going through certain things that we’re going through now,” said Wright.
“But at the same time, people like Steven Gerrard and Ben Mee and white allies who speak up and speak up passionately about the wrongs of racism and inequality is how things change, how things move.
“That’s how people change what they feel, that’s how you make them think, their conscience.”
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