'Tackle the cause, not the symptoms' - England icon Barnes calls for new approach in dealing with racism

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The 55-year-old, who endured years of bigotry himself, made it clear that racial discrimination will not go away overnight

Liverpool legend John Barnes has weighed in on the recent alleged racial abuse of Raheem Sterling during Manchester City's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, calling for a complete overhaul in how racism is tackled not just in football, but in society as a whole.

Sterling had been subject to verbal abuse from a group of Chelsea fans as the 24-year-old approached the touchline, an incident that was caught on camera and quickly went viral. Investigations by the club and the police are now underway.

Taking to social media to air his thoughts the following day, Sterling brought up the subject of how news articles can be spun depending on the skin colour of the individual being written about, using a piece on how a fellow City player had been chastised for buying a house for his mother.

And while Sterling's point was well raised, Barnes spoke of how such negative coverage is not limited to football, but rather a far broader spectrum.

When asked if such articles play a role in stoking racial divisions in the United Kingdom, the Jamaica-born England legend was unequivocal.

“Absolutely,” Barnes told BBC Breakfast. “And not just in football – like when we hear about Muslim terrorists, Nigerian con men, Yardie drug gangs and Muslim grooming and paedophile gangs.

“There are many more white paedophiles and white drug dealers than there are of the other groups of people but we don't talk about that.

“What that does is not painting a negative image of drug dealers or paedophiles, it's portraying a negative image of Muslims or of Nigerians or of Yardies.

“It's a very subtle way of indoctrination.”

Raheem Sterling GFX

Barnes went on to speak of the media's role as an influencer rather than a mirror of society, using the subject of Brexit propaganda as evidence of how people are affected in making decisions, and called for more culpability within the publishing world.

Questioned on whether the subject of racism is getting worse, however, the 55-year-old was again confident in his answer.

“It's not getting worse but because we didn't hear about it we thought it was getting better,” he said.

“[Football clubs] can say 'if there are any racist chants we're going to kick you out of the ground', so for any racist football fans all you have to do is keep your mouth shut. That doesn't mean it's getting any better.

“But in times of confrontation like you saw with Raheem, people show their true colours. You can't tell me that those three people who were racially abusing him [were the only ones], there would have been hundreds that probably felt like saying the same thing but they didn't.

“So does that then mean it doesn't exist?

“We [need to] start looking holistically at how to get rid of racism. The only way we can do that is to tackle the cause, not the symptom. That incident [with Sterling] is a symptom of it, we've seen symptoms from Luis Suarez and John Terry, we've seen so many.

“Very much like a disease, we have to tackle the cause of racism, not the symptoms. All we're doing is tackling the symptoms.”

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