"Black Players Shouldn't Have to Laugh Off Racist Abuse," Robbie Earle on Raheem Sterling
Robbie Earle believes racism is a "cancer" and says football has gone backwards in tackling the issue.
Raheem Sterling was allegedly racially abused by a supporter during Manchester City's Premier League meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with the Football Association, the Metropolitan Police and Chelsea all investigating the incident.
A global study conducted by football's anti-discrimination campaign Kick It Out, and live-score app Forza Football saw 50.1 per cent of UK respondents claim last month to have witnessed racist abuse at a game in the UK.
Speaking to NBC, former Wimbledon captain Earle said he felt he had let down Sterling and future generations, having worked within the game to help eradicate the problem.
When asked whether football has gone backwards in the way it deals with racism, Earle said: "Yes, I do. I worked during the mid-90s with a number of prominent black and white players, with organisations in English football to work hard to stamp out racism.
"We put education programmes in place, we went to schools and we visited people. There was a movement to eradicate it from the game. Twenty-five years on, people are saying 'is it a one-off incident?' One-off is one too many.
"The most difficult thing for me today to say is I failed Raheem Sterling and I failed the group coming behind him. And that is the most difficult thing of all.
"We thought we had this thing nailed and we haven't. It is a cancer. Cancers unless you stay on top of them, unless you are vigilant [they] will come back. It is starting to creep into English football and it is such a shame."
In an Instagram post on Sunday, England international Sterling said he "just had to laugh" at the incident because he "expects no better,” before accusing newspapers of "fuelling racism" with their portrayal of young black players.
Earle added: "That very phrase 'laughed it off' is something you endure and any black player will tell you.
"I have never been white for one day so I don't know it from that side. I only know it from [being] a black player, who was an ex professional and who is now working in the media.
"Laughing things off or when you are inside and it is hurting, you do the wry smile as if I have to accept this and this is how it is. That should never be the case.
"Raheem Sterling should never have to laugh off the people shouting racial abuse at him. He is getting abused because of where he lives, how much money he earns. Again, I have to go back and say, it is almost like we need to start again.
"We need to address this and make sure this isn't something that starts to grow in our game because we saw it through the 80s and 90s in the game and it was something that has no place whatsoever."
A spokesperson for the Premier League said: "The club and the police are rightly investigating this serious matter.
"The Premier League and the clubs are opposed to all forms of discrimination in football and if anyone is found to have racially abused a Premier League player they deserve to be punished.
"We will support any action taken by the club or the authorities."