No Room For Racism

Antonio, Johnson and Anton Ferdinand back No Room For Racism campaign

West Ham United have shown their support this week for the Premier League’s No Room For Racism campaign, which takes place from 6-15 April.

Ahead of the Club’s No Room For Racism home game against Fulham at London Stadium, current men’s players Michail Antonio and Ben Johnson were joined by former player Anton Ferdinand to discuss this issue.

The Premier League launched its No Room For Racism Action Plan in 2021, which outlines a series of commitments and targets to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion, and increase opportunities across those from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups in football.

The Irons’ all-time leading Premier League goalscorer Antonio said: “I’m disappointed that I’m not surprised [racism is still rife]. When things keep on happening you become numb to it, so it has got to the stage that it’s happened that often in my lifetime that it just becomes another thing that is happening every day. It feels like it’s part and parcel of life when in this day and age it shouldn’t be. 

“I do feel as if they need more zero tolerance around it and that there is not enough punishment when it comes to racism. If it happens in the stands, then points should be deducted, that’s my opinion. 

“If you give people a chance [to be racist], they are going to fight for that opportunity and take it. If it’s zero tolerance, there is more of a chance that things will slow down.

“What I find frustrating is that when these things happen, I just don’t feel as if enough is being done. If someone can bet and get an eight-month ban, someone can fail a drugs test and get a four-year ban, why does someone who gets caught for racism get only 12 weeks?

“I feel as if there’s not much difference since I was 12. They’ve brought in a couple of more rules, but I was twelve 22 years ago. Think about how much life has changed in 22 years."

For us to be in a similar situation from when I was 12 when it comes to racism, compared to mobile phones and other technology, shows we are still well behind
Michail Antonio

“Honestly, I don’t think there will ever be a time [where there is no need for a No Room For Racism campaign]. I feel that it is instilled in people from when they are young and if there is ever a time [it is fully gone] I’m saying a good 50 or 60 years.

“It is gradually getting less and less, you can see that, but there is still that little bit from the ages going down that needs to be filtered. I don’t know if it’s going to be in my lifetime [that there is no more racism] and I don’t think 60 years will be enough either. I think it will be another 100 to 200 years."

No Room For Racism

Johnson, who came through the Club’s Academy of Football, also admits he is not surprised that racism is still an ongoing issue in football.

He said: “I have never been racially abused but I know what it feels like to be black, to be looked upon differently and I’ve heard so many stories both on and off the pitch. For it to still be happening is so, so disappointing. 

“This has been an issue for as long as I can remember, seeing Kick It Out as a child, and still more things are trying to be done, yet the problem is still there.

“I can only do my bit from experience and growing up in the Academy. It’s a blessing being black and being different to a lot of people I’ve grown up with, played with, and feeling different to them. It’s been a real challenge, but I’ve learned so much from my life which has been great."

I can be an influence and I would like to think I’ve been an influence on the West Ham United community with the way I try to represent myself with my faith, but also the colour of my skin
Ben Johnson

“I would never judge or see a player in a different light if they decided not to finish the game [following racial abuse]. I would always believe that I am a player who wants people to beat them either way with my smile, but I would want a severe punishment to happen after the game.

“It’s not just about a monetary fine anymore, you can fine clubs however much you want, and they will be able to pay it, it is about eradicating them from the respective tournament or deduct points, as that is the two things that hurts teams the most. That is what is going to kill their revenue, so I would say that is what is important to me, that there is a real risk of clubs losing revenue through this matter as it keeps popping up worldwide.

“It [racism] is probably still getting worse and not getting any better. I feel like it’s something that can be eradicated but that’s to be with people’s attitudes and outlook on life. Some people don’t even know what they are doing or saying. It’s time that the Premier League really does something."

West Ham Club Ambassador Ferdinand, who has suffered on-field racial abuse, added: “I think it’s very important to have these types of events and for it to be a continuous conversation because when that happens people understand that this topical conversation is bigger than all of us. 

“To educate people, you need to speak, and that goes both ways no matter what race, colour, or creed you are, and you have to be open enough to speak about these situations for them to become a normal conversation. 

“I think the impact of these events and activations can be educational, and it makes an uncomfortable conversation a bit more comfortable.”

The Premier League recognised West Ham United’s ongoing dedication and commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) by presenting the Club with the highest level of award in this area in October 2023.

It was the second time West Ham have received the award, having first been presented with the Advanced level of the Premier League Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Standard (PLEDIS) in 2020.

The Club is proud of the ethnic diversity that exists within our local community of Newham, one of London’s most vibrant and diverse boroughs, alongside our ever-growing global fanbase, our staff and the players from all countries and backgrounds who represent West Ham United.