Manchester City and England footballer Raheem Sterling on Sunday insisted that racism is “the only disease right now”.
The 25-year-old, who has often and powerfully spoken out on discrimination, admitted his remarks may appear ill-chosen as the globe fights the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know this might sound a little bit cheesy but the only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting,” said Sterling in a BBC TV interview to be broadcast on Monday.
Sterling is the latest sports star to voice support for protests against racism in the United States and across the world following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
“This is the most important thing at this moment in time because this is something that is happening for years and years. Just like the pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it,” he added.
“At the same time, this is what all these protesters are doing. They are trying to find a solution and a way to stop the injustice they are seeing, and they are fighting for their cause.
“As long as they are doing it peacefully and safely and not hurting anybody and not breaking into any stores, they continue to protest in this peaceful way.”
Sterling has previously been prominent in calling out racism in both the domestic and international game.
Last year he advised fellow players against walking off the pitch in the event of racial abuse.
But Sterling believes it is now time for the talking to develop into real change – in society and in the notoriously tribal world of professional football.
“There’s only so much communities and other backgrounds can take – especially black people.
“It’s been going on for hundreds of years and people are tired and people are ready for change.
“This is something that needs more than just talking. We need to actually implement change and highlight the places that do need changes.
“But this is something that I myself will continue to do, and spark these debates and get people in my industry looking at themselves and thinking what they can do to give people an equal chance in this country.”