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No Room For Racism

Stokes: We should celebrate our differences

4 May 2021

Man City Women defender talks about her experiences of discrimination and how she took action for Premier League Primary Stars

As part of the Premier League's No Room For Racism initiative, leading male and female players have spoken about their experiences of discrimination on and off the pitch and how to take action.

These films have been made into school resources as part of the Premier League Primary Stars programme, with the aim of inspiring the younger generation and helping them develop resilience and ambition.

See: This Is Everyone's Game - Black Voices

The resources are available to more than 18,000 primary schools as well as to young people on the Premier League Kicks and Premier League Inspires programmes.

Demi Stokes, a left-back for Manchester City Women and England, grew up in South Shields and developed her love of football while in primary school.

"We don't have to agree but to understand is what everyone needs"

Demi Stokes, Manchester City Women left-back

When she was eight years old, Stokes joined an all-girls team who were playing in an all-boys league but, in her first match, she experienced racism from an opposing player.

Instead of ignoring the incident, Stokes took action and reported it to the referee, who dealt with the situation on the pitch.

And her response mirrors the next phase of the No Room For Racism initiative, which calls on fans to challenge and report racism wherever it takes place.

Challenging racism

"I told the ref and they did something about it by taking him off, and actually he's understood that you can't do that because he was crying and he said sorry," she says. "I just got on with it.

"Then I didn't see it as challenging, I think I was only eight at the time. I just told the ref because I didn't like it.

"It's about challenging it and actually saying, 'no'. But it doesn't matter whether you are eight or 28, or 40. It's still not nice."

Even though it came so early in Stokes's career, the incident did not affect her love of the game.

She joined Manchester City Women in 2015 and has gone on to win the Women's Super League as well as two FA Cups. Stokes was also part of the England Women FIFA World Cup squad in 2019.

Speaking out

And she wants to use her platform to encourage others to speak out about racism and also to promote diversity in the game and across society as a whole.

"We are footballers but we've also got another job," she says. "It's still an issue now, racism is still a touchy subject. And even for me, I'm 28 and it's only probably now where I am going, 'actually, I need to speak about it'.

"It's important to get an understanding; understanding why someone might wear something or speaks the way they speak.

"We don't have to agree but to understand is what everyone needs. We should celebrate our differences."

For more information on the free No Room For Racism education resources, head to the PL Primary Stars website.

Action plan

In January, the Premier League launched its No Room For Racism Action Plan, outlining a series of commitments aimed at creating greater access to opportunities and career progression for Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups in football, and actions to eradicate racial prejudice.

How can you help?

By reporting online discriminatory abuse, you can help stop this unacceptable behaviour and protect others  from seeing the abusive content. Everyone has a responsibility to report online hate.

See: How to report abuse on social media

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