FORMER professional footballer and captain of T&T’s senior men’s national team Kenwyne Jones says racism was something he experienced throughout his career.
In a public, virtual discussion, hosted by the Futsal Association T&T, titled Sports for Social Justice, on Sunday, Jones delved into his experiences as well as the current racial tension in the US following the killing of George Floyd.
In addition to the T&T leg of his career, Jones also made a name for himself in England, playing for teams like Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Stoke City, Cardiff City and Bournemouth.
He said he was exposed to racism “from day one” in England, which continued for several years.
“When you’re in a system that is not designed for you, when you get involved, there are a lot of things you are going to be dependent on. So even though you are being paid, you have issues such as the fact that you’re not from there, so you have to walk, talk, act a certain way in order to be able to stay in that system.”
He said within his first five years, it almost felt like he was doing “a lot of puppeteering” owing to the power certain officials held.
Jones said racism was something he experienced at every level of the sport. “From administration organisations, on the field, from fans, inside the stadium. Even ‘til this day I still get messages from all ranges of social media that have a lot of racist undertones.”
TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis also chimed in on the issue, recalling growing up in the days of the Black Power movement. He said even while holding leadership positions within the sporting industry, he still faced discrimination solely because of his skin colour.
“People crossed the road (when they saw you), it didn’t have anything to do with money or possession…I’ve gone to a sports-related meeting and waiting for an elevator, people refused to come in – not once nor twice. I have been racially profiled at immigration during travel.”
He also used T&T as an example, saying there are still people who consider certain sports as “black people sports” and others as “Indo or white sports.”
Jones said many stand against racism behind closed doors, but remain silent in public because they do not want their streams of income or character to become damaged.
“They want to keep their position, keep that economic flow, be invited to the same parties, they don’t want to go against the grain…
“A lot of corporations jumped on the (Black Lives Matter) bandwagon because they want to maintain that economic fluidity. They want to keep consumers and workers.”
Asked about sportsmen who are now publicly stating their views on the issues and taking a stand, he said, “I believe it because of their experience and they want to see something change, not only in the present time they’re in but for future generations.”