Paul Stewart column: Sport has to show racism the red card

The late Keith Walwyn in action for Blackpool in 1988
The late Keith Walwyn in action for Blackpool in 1988
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I’m trying to get my head around what seems to be an endemic problem regarding racial abuse in sport.

The rise in incidents over the last year beggars one’s belief.

I have witnessed such incidents over the many years I played the game and would have to say I thought it was a lack of education and a society issue.

I’m talking about the 1970s and ’80s, when racism was an everyday and commonplace occurrence.

Many of us remember TV shows such as ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ and ‘Till Death Do Us Part’, shows that were iconic in an era when being PC hadn’t even been considered.

Surely in the 21st century, one would have thought we’d have looked at the behaviour of society back then and realised it was and is unacceptable.

Such former players as the late Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis did not battle so hard for equality only for such behaviour to continue to rear its ugly head.

Have we no respect whatsoever? It would seem that this is the case.

I recently watched in disgust as individuals showered Raheem Sterling with abuse while he was playing for Manchester City against Chelsea.

These were adults of 40-50 years of age, probably with children and grandchildren of their own.

The hatred that showed on their contorted faces as they lambasted him with abuse was clear for all to see.

The monkey chants that continue to echo around large sections of football grounds can be heard loud and clear on TV.

What are we doing to eradicate this? As human beings, surely if this kind of behaviour is happening next to us in any setting we have a duty to challenge the individuals involved. Or do we just ignore it because it’s not our responsibility?

We have to realise that, in most cases, young children will be within earshot. Therefore how can we expect them to behave respectfully when they see adults acting in such a way, and, in some cases, their parents leading the chants?

Children learn from adults and they look up to parents. Therefore they will assume this behaviour is acceptable, thus creating a further generation of racists.

Lifetime bans are appropriate but should the judicial system not be called upon, at least to impose re-education initiatives when individuals are culpable of this kind of behaviour?

Without educating such perpetrators we will never rid sport or society of this vile behaviour and we will also be teaching our next generation that this is acceptable.

My reasons for highlighting this are probably not only because I think it should be eradicated from sport as well as from society as a whole.

I have a granddaughter who is mixed race.

I do not look at colour but fear that she may be inhibited growing up because of her ancestry.

Her grandad was the Blackpool legend Keith Walwyn, one of the nicest people you could have wished to meet.

Keith left us far to early, aged 47, and never got to meet his grandchild.

I feel it is important that we consider what he must have been subjected to during his illustrious career, and that we look at where we are today.

We should all do our utmost to rid society of this problem and make examples of anyone who continues to behave in the way highlighted in the media of late.

There is no room for racism in today’s society period.