England forward Raheem Sterling has given his backing to the anti-racism protests gripping the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the United States.
The 25-year-old Manchester City star insisted racism is “the only disease right now” and said he will continue to speak out on the issue in the hope that it will contribute to lasting change.
Speaking to Emily Maitlis on BBC Newsnight in a interview to be broadcast on Monday evening, Sterling said: “I know this might sound a little bit cheesy but the only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting.
“This is the most important thing at this moment in time because this is something that is happening for years and years. Just like the pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it.
“At the same time, this is what all these protesters are doing. They are trying to find a solution and a way to stop the injustice they are seeing, and they are fighting for their cause.
“As long as they are doing it peacefully and safely and not hurting anybody and not breaking into any stores, they continue to protest in this peaceful way.”
Sterling has previously challenged the British media’s perception of black players and taken a lead in calling out racism in both the domestic and international game.
Last year he counselled fellow professionals against walking off the pitch in the event of racial abuse, and has also called for the establishing of a player-led anti-racism task-force.
But Sterling believes it is now time for the talking to develop into real change in order to go further in banishing the scourge of racism from sport and wider society for good.
Sterling added: “There’s only so much communities and other backgrounds can take – especially black people.
“It’s been going on for hundreds of years and people are tired and people are ready for change.
“This is something that needs more than just talking. We need to actually implement change and highlight the places that do need changes.
“But this is something that I myself will continue to do, and spark these debates and get people in my industry looking at themselves and thinking what they can do to give people an equal chance in this country.”
Meanwhile, world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has hit back at critics of his speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford on Saturday, in which, like Sterling, he compared racism to a “virus”.
In an expletive-laden riposte to those who questioned his intentions on his social media channels, Joshua vowed to make good on his promise to help turn the talking into action.
Joshua wrote: “I personally spoke from the heart about the Watford community, ideas of us personally investing 7 figures to create unity and opportunities and adding change to the African/Caribbean community.
“I said what I said and I will act to make change.”