Former Newcastle United goalkeeper and founding member of Show Racism The Red Card, Shaka Hislop spoke to Liam MacDevitt about what players can do to confront racism and social inequality.
As the protests continue across America and the rest of the world after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while being restrained by a white police officer in Minneapolis on the 25th May, we have seen a number of footballers demonstrate their abhorrence to the ongoing injustices.
Shaka Hislop believes this is like nothing we have seen before. Speaking with Liam MacDevitt, Shaka revealed he has felt a sense of reassurance by witnessing first-hand the diversity of those protesting: “It is like nothing I have ever seen the protests, the riots, the all-around reaction is like nothing I have witnessed during my lifetime. I have seen a lot of upheaval here in the US and England. This is different. I went to Boston and took part in the Black Lives Matter march and this brought a sense of reassurance and belief in our future, because of the numbers of people there and the diversity of people there, the emotion, was uplifting.”
Hislop also touched on his own experience during his time as a black goalkeeper in England - one experience in particular staying with Hislop: “Standing on the field I always felt safe…there is or was a petrol station outside St James Park and late one night I was filling my car up, my family were in the car, and some white kids were coming down the street and started shouting racial abuse at me. And then one recognised who I was and then all of a sudden it changed, they started to sing my name triumphantly, wanted to come over for autographs…. the damage as far as I was concerned was already done. I got in the car and took my family out of what I thought was a toxic situation”
In 1995 Hislop made a £50 donation to a local anti-racism campaign in Newcastle Upon Tyne and urged others to make a donation also- Ged Grebby got on board and from here Show Racism the Red Card grew in the UK, as well as Norway, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden. Show Racism the Red Card was “less about my experience as a black man in England than it was just my desire to make a change”.
Touching on the topic of what players can now do to use their platform to raise awareness and bring attention to the ongoing social injustices, Hislop believes the “time for the silent majority is now over”. He believes players should build on the sacrifices of those that have come before them to continue to fight for much needed change. “The first thing I would say to young footballers so congratulations, this is not an easy space to get to, you have done wonderfully well to get here, but now that you are here recognise the giants on whose shoulders you now stand, John Barnes, Viv Anderson, Laurie Cunningham, Cyril Regis….
“To take a hands off approach not build on their own sacrifices is a true disservice to the games greats… continue that work, continue that fight.”