I'm backing Rio in 'Kick it Out' racism row, says County ace O'Connor
NEWPORT County hotshot Aaron O’Connor yesterday helped to ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ at Rodney Parade, but he’s fully behind the current boycott of the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign, the Argus can reveal.
Premier League stars including Jason Roberts, Rio Ferdinand and the entire Wigan and Swansea squads refused to wear ‘Kick it Out’ T-shirts at the weekend and it’s proving a huge talking point.
The protest is because of dissatisfaction with the group and a perceived lack of progress on the racism issue, very much in the spotlight after high profile incidents involving two of the biggest stars in the Premier League.
O’Connor, along with teammates and manager Justin Edinburgh, yesterday spoke in front of 100 school kids from across Newport about racism on behalf of Show Racism the Red Card, but he would not support Kick it Out in its current guise.
“I personally feel the fact that more is being said about players not wearing the T-shirts, that it’s causing a bigger fuss than the incidents we’ve seen, that tells me that the people in charge don’t have their priorities in the right place,” he said.
“We see no signs of anything big happening, when we see racist incidents they are dealt with far too quietly and then it fizzles out, plus the punishments aren’t enough, not even close.
“But now about the T-shirts there is an uproar. The punishments don’t make sense to me and that’s how many people feel.
“If a player gets found guilty in a racist incident there shouldn’t be different punishments, there should be one maximum punishment for everyone and it should be far longer than four or eight games.
“In my eyes there are no differences, there is no different level of racism, if you shout it, if you whisper it, it’s the same thing.
“If you did it as a fan you’d be banned from grounds for years, that’s the issue, why aren’t players getting a uniform punishment?
“The powers in the game are almost rating racist incidents at the moment, grading them for punishment and that doesn’t help and it’s why I wouldn’t currently support Kick it Out.
“Kids look up to people like Rio Ferdinand and Jason Roberts and if they see them not wearing the T-shirts, they are going to ask their parents what’s going on.
“That raises awareness and if they want to kick it out from a young age, these iconic players have to make their stand.”
O’Connor, prolific on social media site Twitter, also lifted the lid on his views on that forum, having suffered abuse from Luton Town fans just recently in the same week Bradley Wiggins and Kyle Walker quit Twitter.
“You get involved as much as you want to, everyone goes on social network sites for their own reasons,” he said.
“I don’t mind speaking to fans, I don’t have a private account, I don’t block people, I am open to discussion, and I speak to people with respect and expect the same.
“I am happy to talk to fans, nine times out of ten, to see the views of everyone, that’s what I’m on it for.
“The issue is when it’s people talking on there in a way they never would to your face.
“I’ve aired some strong opinions but I’d also say those things to people’s faces.
“It’s a shame with a young player like Kyle Walker. Just because footballers are seen as being in a fortunate position they are still human beings.
“Just because Kyle Walker is earning a lot of money doesn’t give people a right to have a go at him and abuse him just because he’s having a bad spell.”