FOOTBALLERS past and present were in South Tyneside to show racism the red card.
Sunderland defender Wes Brown was joined by Black Cats legend Gary Bennett, former Newcastle United players Olivier Bernard and John Anderson, ex-Middlesbrough defender Dean Gordon and one-time Leicester City striker Trevor Benjamin.
The footballers were at South Shields Town Hall yesterday to talk about their experiences of racism, and to educate schoolchildren about issues such as stereotyping and discrimination.
At the event, organised by the Show Racism the Red Card campaign, 45 pupils from Marine Park Primary School watched an educational film and took part in activities aimed at raising awareness.
They also spoke to the players during a question and answer session.
Wes Brown, 31, said: “I experienced racism a lot of times when I was younger and playing for Sunday league teams, and I have seen it happen in the professional game.
“It is not a nice thing to happen and when it does, you don’t know how to react to it, and it feels like you’re on your own.
“It can be like a form of bullying and it is important that we stamp out racism.”
North East-based campaign group Show Racism the Red Card works closely with South Tyneside Council, and meets about 1,500 young people in the borough each year. Craig Bankhead, the charity’s education manager, said: “It’s not just about football.
“The campaign uses the role model status of top professional sports stars to help tackle racism in society.
“There have been a number of high-profile cases of racism in the media recently and it shows that we cannot be complacent.
“Nobody is born a racist. Negative attitudes and language are both learnt behaviour, and we explore these attitudes and provide young people and adults with the tools to address the prejudice they face.”
Emma Ruddock, deputy headteacher at Marine Park in Hatfield Square, South Shields, said: “Our children are very bright and a lot of them have their own opinions about a wide range of issues.
“Events like this make them aware of the language and terminology which they can and cannot use, and play an important role in their development.”
Coun Tracey Dixon, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for leisure and community safety, said: “Racism is not something I have seen at the forefront of our community.
“But I know that it does happen, and we all have to work together to combat it.”