Raheem Sterling has been awarded an MBE by the Queen in recognition of his leadership role in challenging racial inequality around the world. He was honoured alongside Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, for his collaboration with the NHS in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic
Sterling’s efforts in the fight against racism have been heroic. The Manchester City midfielder has been on the receiving end of abuse on several occasions. Whether on duty with the club or with the national team, he has often been singled out for abuse as if to intimidate him into submission.
But the winger has remained resolute, sometimes acting as a lone voice crying in the wilderness. This has usually drawn attention to him with the media sometimes stoking the fans by unfairly criticising him for his performances on the pitch.
Sterling has fought back by highlighting the media’s perception of black people as a key contributor to the problem. This put the spotlight squarely on the media, challenging journalists to stop stereotyping people of colour or any other societal group for that matter.
He was one of the most outspoken celebrities during protests that gripped the United States last year and spread to other parts of the world, as a result of the chilling murder of George Floyd by a policeman in the US.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 last year, in an interview with the BBC 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.
He also plays a leadership role among professional players. Last year he counselled fellow players against walking off the pitch in the event of racial abuse. He has also proposed the establishment of a player-led anti-racism task force to help solve the problem.
The winger believes it is now time for concrete action that will banish the scourge of racism from sport and the wider society once and for all. He feels the victims of such injustice in society have had enough.
“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 will continue to do, 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,” Sterling said.
The 26-year-old has pledged to continue to speak out in the hope that will help bring a lasting change. In a way, the England international has become a modern freedom fighter.
He may not be as popular as the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. But his courage to speak up against a societal plague and the willingness to play a leading role in finding a solution is deserving of the MBE.
That should not be the crowning moment for the course though. It should rather serve as a spur to do more. The real victory will be secured when we begin to see each other as one and the same, regardless of skin colour.
Else, if we continue to tread this path and refuse to see each other as one, we will all suffer the consequences. Like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Dr. King dreamt of the realisation of what Sterling and many others are still fighting for today in the 1960s when he said:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
How tragic that in 2021, a section of mankind still judges other humans by the colour of their skin.
In the end, we all must realise, there’s only one race. And that’s the human race!
Raheem Sterling, MBE.