Roman Abramovich and Chelsea lead fight against discrimination but more must be done
The Premier League has been at the forefront of the fight against racism and hate on all fronts since the murder of George Floyd a year ago in Minneapolis.
The 46-year-old’s murder on May 25, 2020, after his neck and back were knelt on by police officer Derek Chauvin for nine minutes and 29 seconds sent shockwaves around the world.
Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe” became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the world. Not just on racial injustice but also on police brutality.Chauvin was subsequently convicted of Floyd’s murder earlier this year on all three counts he faced – second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
On June 12 last year, the Premier League released a players’ statement to show their support against the racial injustice.
“We, the players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for all, regardless of their colour or creed,” it read.
“This symbol is a sign of unity from all players, all staff, all clubs, all match officials and the Premier League #blacklivesmatter #playerstogether.”
While the league was returning amid the Covid-19 pandemic with Project Restart, the Premier League supported the motion that players’ names on the backs of their shirts would be replaced with “Black Lives Matter” for the final 12 games of the campaign, while the BLM logo would also appear on the shirts.
The taking of the knee also became a fixture pre-match, as it still is more than a year later.
Chelsea have long been a club that leads by example when it comes to tackling issues such as a racism, anti-semitism and hate.
Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta was fully behind the support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It is something where we want to use our position to express that we are living in a world where we have to try to improve it for the future, to be a better world with more love, without hate,’ Azpilicueta said.
“We have seen recently the result of racism and we see every day that that kind of hate has to be eradicated from society, and we have to play our part.
“There is every day the possibility to lead by example, to behave, to educate the children into a better world because we know that education is key for the future.
“We know the young generation is coming behind us and we want to leave them in a better world with more possibilities without any kind of discrimination or racism, so everything matters and it is time to speak up and to face up to the attitudes that we are seeing. There is no place for all of this.
Despite the concerted efforts of plenty in society to eradicate racism, especially in football, players are still routinely abused and it was very apparent at Chelsea after Reece James was targeted by racist trolls on Instagram.
That led to club owner Roman Abramovich taking the step of sending a letter to every Chelsea player which said: “I am appalled by the racist abuse targeted at Reece on social media.
“Racism has no place in our club nor in our society. Our club is committed to fighting racism, antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.
“We cannot allow this to continue unchecked. I have therefore directed the board to further increase the club’s efforts in this area and I will personally direct more funds towards this important work.”
Abramovich’s work, alongside the relentless efforts of the Chelsea Foundation in battling against discrimination has regularly won awards for its work.
But both Abramovich and the club know that more needs to be done. With some England fans booing the taking of the knee in recent friendlies against Austria and Romania, that is patently clear.
Abramovich will be at the forefront of it all and, as explained in his letter to his players earlier this year, will be pumping more funds into getting the message across but as he will have seen in his near 15 years of ownership at the club, he and football has a long way to go.