Leroy Rosenior, Show Racism the Red Card Vice President, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to education thanks to his work supporting Show Racism the Red Card.
Campaign Officer, Ben Holman, spoke to Leroy prior to receiving his award...
BH: In the New Year you will be receiving an MBE for your services to anti-racism education. I imagine this will be an extremely proud moment for both yourself and your family?
LR: Yeah definitely, but it’s more for my Mum, my Dad - who unfortunately passed away over ten years ago now, my sisters, my children and my partner. They’ve allowed me to do the work at a cost to them and I know that they’ve supported me brilliantly so it’s more about them than anything else. It’s also about the organisation, Show Racism the Red Card. The organisation has been wonderful to me in terms of the way it has helped me to deliver the work and get around the country to further spread the message. So, its for all those people and I truly believe I’m receiving it on behalf of everybody who has a massive input in to the organisation and into me doing the work in all honesty. Personally, I’m very proud obviously to be receiving the award but it’s for all those people I’ve mentioned because they deserve it just as much as me.
BH: You’ve been committed to anti-racism education for several years now, have you always had your family in mind during the work you’ve conducted and has it been a motivation for you to want to create a better world for the generations that will follow?
LR: Yeah absolutely. My Dad told me stories about when he first came over and about the racism he first received, how he dealt with it was something that really inspired me. Then obviously going through school, when I was growing up, I didn’t feel as though I had any racism. I put it in my book that I was protected from it by my sisters and parents but when I started playing football, I started to realise what it was all about. To have the career I had, there were a lot of players who went by the wayside because they didn’t keep quiet. But to have the career I had I knew that I had to keep quiet but when I came out the game and that environment, I knew that I wanted to do something about it and Show Racism the Red Card gave me the platform to do that and they educated me as well. They put me on courses and I spoke to loads of people and it gave me the confidence to go out and tell the stories and to try not only educate but to help people come to terms with certain situations and help people understand. I’ve seen before that people haven’t accepted this award because it a member of the British empire but for me, I’m not a protester. I’m someone who wants to bring people together and to come from a family who were slaves, who were certainly not members of the British empire for somebody in Britain to now recognise that I am a member of the British Empire. In my work I have to remind people that I am British is major part because of the colour of my skin people don’t expect me to British I think it goes a long way towards helping our cause and I think it’s a helpful thing and I don’t want to just accept the award but I want to take it forward and use it a positive way to embrace more in people into anti-racism.
BH: You touched on there that when you came towards the end of your career you were looking onward to the next chapter, did you think back then that you would still be working tirelessly to this day to tackle racism in both society and football?
LR: Well you don’t because you work day in, day out, and you focus on the next thing and the next thing and you don’t focus on ten, fifteen, years down the line. But then all of a sudden ten years or fifteen years has passed by and you’re still working at it. But what I will say and what has given be the greatest satisfaction is I’ve been into a lot of schools and been back for second visits and when I’ve been back that second time maybe a year later the schools have said that the workshops, we did with them have been embraced by the children and they’ve really taken on the message. So, what we’ve been doing is teaching the future teaches and I’ve always said young kids get it and you go in to those schools that we’ve been in and anti-racism is part of the fabric of the school and something which is a top priority in the school and that is something which I’m extremely proud of.
BH: When you receive the MBE in the new year that won’t be the end of the hard-work though will it? Would you agree the work must be carried on for as long as it is needed?
LR: Well absolutely, I’ve got children and I’ve got grandchildren and I’m hoping that they don’t have to do what I do but I have a feeling that they might have to. Hopefully they won’t have to but I’m a realist and you can see that now racism is a part of society and we must be aware of that and we have to know how to deal with it. I might be talking about it until I go to my grave but hopefully, we won’t be talking about it as much and hopefully we will have procedures in place to deal with racism effectively and stop it growing into something which can cause serious damage to society.
BH: Back in October 2018 I saw Liam (Rosenior) speak to young people during a Q&A session at our educational event at Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club and he was fantastic. He had some really positive messages to share with the young people, has he picked that up from you?
LR: He’s been around me, he’s listened to me going on about it, he’s added to it and he’s a lot more intelligent than me and I’m really proud of him. He feels the same as I do, he’s had the same sort of treatment as me while playing, maybe not to the same levels but he felt exactly the same as I did when playing and he knows how to express himself. We need people in the position of role-models to express themselves in the right way to help people who aren’t in such privileged positions who maybe can’t speak out. He knows he’s got a responsibility and he takes it very seriously.
BH: Following on from Raheem Sterling’s statement about the incident at Stamford Bridge and his views on the media’s portrayal of young black footballers we’ve seen the topic of racism in football discussed on nearly every major media outlet and platform. Is this possibly a silver lining on what’s been a disappointing time for football’s fight to eradicate racism?
LR: Yeah definitely but I want people to have the conversations in the right way. I had to stop my car, pullover, and phone into a radio sports station as they had four guys talking about the Raheem Sterling incident and talking about it as though it was his fault. It’s great that people talk about it but they have to talk about finding a solution and not why it happened and if it’s Raheem’s fault but we got to talk about why people are doing it and I keep saying it but people aren’t born racist and we don’t want them to become to racist and to stop that we have to educate people. There are so many people I’ve spoken to have said things that would be deemed racism or ignorant things and I pick them up on it in the right way and they say, “I never knew that and going forward I’ll make a real conscious effort to make sure that not only do I not do it but other people don’t do it”.
BH: Going forward, what would you like to see as a direct result from the conversations that have taken place over the last few weeks?
LR: Firstly, the people who have abused Raheem Sterling I’d like to see them punished but be punished with a ban that lasts a certain amount of time and during that time I would like to see them get an education and take a course which helps them understand why what they’ve done is wrong. If they come out of the course understanding their mistakes, then I think they should be reintegrated into the football club. I don’t want people banned for life as they will go back into wider society and express those views that they hold and that won’t benefit society. In terms of bullet points I want all the authorities to come together, to put together, firstly it is all about money, a funding plan together so that if these incidents reoccur there is a procedure of how to deal with it and how to report it and show the positive results. Because when you don’t show positive results people think it’s disappeared show that these are the incidents that have been happening in our football stadiums and this how they’ve been dealt with and these are the positive outcomes.
You have to give credit to Raheem Sterling, he’s twenty-four years old and he’s been magnificent, the way he’s conducted himself, the way he’s got everyone talking about these important issues. You can not just shout and scream as people won’t listen and Raheem did it in a way that started the conversations. Gary Neville held his hands up and said I didn’t know how to deal with it which was amazing honesty and he used his platform to reflect on his past experiences and I thought that was fantastic of him.
BH: Thank you for you time today and once again, congratulations on the MBE, it’s well deserved.