Former international footballer tells DMU to 'show racism the red card'


A former Premier League footballer has told an audience of students and staff at De Montfort University that more needs to be done to bring awareness to the issue of racism.

Chris Iwelumo, who had a long career playing as a striker for clubs such as St Mirren, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Burnley and Watford, was speaking at a ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ event, which took place on DMU’s campus and was organised by trade union Unison.

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Show Racism the Red Card is the UK’s anti-racism educational charity, which was established in 1996. The organisation uses the high-profile status of football and its players to help tackle racism in society. 

The event explored racism and its impact with a series of talks which covered the experiences of minority groups within society and considered how racism can be combated in all its forms.

DMU Chief Operating Officer Ben Browne welcomed the attendees and highlighted DMU’s inclusive values.

There was then a speech by Ben Holman from Show Racism the Red Card, who introduced an impactful film in which professional footballers addressed the issue of racism both within the game and wider society.

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Chris Iwelumo, who won four caps for Scotland, spoke about the racism he experienced from a young age and throughout his career. He emphasised the importance of speaking out and reporting racist abuse as soon as possible.

He said: “I’ve experienced racism all my life, I’ve got a Scottish mother and I Nigerian father. I think it’s about educating, people don’t know what’s right because of how they’ve been brought up and more awareness needs to be brought to that.

“I normalised it because it was every day for me growing up, we were the only black family at my primary school and the only black family at my secondary school.

“I normalised it and I never allowed it to affect me, but it was still wrong, I should have gone and spoken to someone about. That’s what we’re trying to do now, bring awareness to it.”

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Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary of Unison, powerfully recalled the racism he has encountered during his life and urged the audience to ‘stick together’.

“At the moment we’re seeing a massive rise in racism and fascism across the country,” he said.

“If people don’t stand up and do something about it then it’s just going to get worse and frankly we can’t allow that to happen.

“These events are really important because they allow us to come together and allow us to plan what we’re going to do next.”

There were also talks by Claire Horne from Thompson Solicitors and Ryan Bromyard from Leicester City FC Community Trust.

Ben Holman believes that sport can be a powerful tool in addressing the issue of racism in modern Britain.

He explained: “This is a topic that is common in society as a whole but also in football, as a charity we use football as a way to educate society. There have been a lot of problems in society and football recently so events like today help us expose ourselves and show what we’re doing to tackle it.

“Football can be a real vehicle to implement social change. We work with young people and we use footballers to relay a positive message to them. When footballers come in the room and young people get to speak to them they speak up and pay attention to them because they are role models.”

Posted on Monday 18th February 2019

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