Former Tottenham Hotspur forward Jermain Defoe met Britain’s ex-NFL star Jack Crawford this week to discuss their backgrounds, their careers and the role sport can play in breaking down barriers and combatting discrimination.
The pair chatted at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is currently hosting NFL games, with New York Giants taking on Green Bay Packers this Sunday. They talked about how sport can provide opportunities for people from all backgrounds to rise to prominence and inspire others.
"It's important to look at how far we've come,” says Crawford, who grew up in London before moving to the US, in the video above. “You [Defoe] didn't have to do anything to break barriers, apart from be good at football.
"But [it’s great] having kids of all backgrounds, of all races watching you play, saying 'I want to be like Jermain Defoe.'"
The pair also discussed the racist abuse that Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka received after missing penalties for England in the Euro 2020 final. While condemning the abuse and noting that those found guilty faced punishments, Crawford reflected on the leading roles the trio were playing for their country.
“I looked at it in the sense of the England team in the Euros came down to three black players,” the former Dallas Cowboys tight end says. “It rested on their shoulders. If you look at the bigger picture, it is representation and shows the value of how far we have come."
Defoe was also heartened by the way the nation rallied round the abused players.
"The fact that everyone came together to support them was one of the best things that happened that summer," he says.
Inspiring next generation
Defoe is now an Academy coach at Spurs, the club where he had two successful spells. He hails the role of black predecessors such as Chris Hughton, Ugo Ehiogu, Chris Powell and Ledley King, whom he calls trailblazers.
Defoe hopes his current position will inspire others of similar backgrounds to get into coaching, where previously they would not have considered it.
"They probably thought, 'I don't know if I should do that,' he says. “But when you see someone else from the same background get given the opportunity, [they'll think] 'Yeah, I can do this.' That's exactly what happens."
Also in this series
Part 1: Players, clubs and League show commitment to fight racism
Part 2: Ferdinand explains why players take the knee
Part 3: Ward-Prowse: Taking the knee sends powerful message
Part 5: Bent: Taking the knee enables conversations on racism
Part 6: Solanke: We all have role to play in fight against racism