Ex-Stags star says that 'not being racist' is not good enough and calls for Ashfield MP to take a stand
Ex-Mansfield Town footballer Jonathan D’Laryea has spoken out about his experiences of racism in Mansfield and Ashfield, and is calling for people in the area to do more than just ‘not being racist’.
Jonathan D’Laryea grew up in Manchester, and moved to Nottinghamshire 16 years ago when he joined Mansfield Town Football Club.
The 35-year-old looks back at his time playing for the Stags fondly, but says that some of his first experiences of the area as a young black male were very unpleasant, and that he feels that more can be done in the Nottinghamshire towns to stamp out racism – something he would like MP Lee Anderson to address.
The MP for Ashfield has hit the headlines in recent weeks for his vow to boycott England’s Euros matches, due to the players ‘taking the knee’ prior to kick off.
In a video posted to his official MP page on July 8, Mr Anderson said: “It’s my decision, I don’t like the taking the knee business, I think it associates with the Black Lives Matter movement – I know that the England players don’t think it does, but it does to me.”
In an open letter, England manager Gareth Southgate had said of the decision: “I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.
“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.”
After the racist abuse targeted at England’s black players after the defeat at Wembley, Mr D’Laryea, now a school teacher and head of year at Selston High School, is hoping to highlight the message that the people of Mansfield and Ashfield need to ‘do more’ in the fight against racism.
He explains: “The racist abuse aimed at the England players was a disgrace but, based on my own experiences, not entirely unexpected.
"Unfortunately I think a lot more needs to be done, especially in this area to look at our own behaviours and to do more to fight against inequality and level the playing field for people of all colours."
When moving to Nottinghamshire from Manchester, the footballer encountered many shocking forms of racism, which he admits now looking back, he ‘laughed off’ at the time, and admits he wishes he had done more to speak out when it happened.
"On my first visit to Sutton town centre, a man sat on a bench, looked at me and said ‘What are you doing here? Why are you in this country?’ and I immediately laughed and walked away – obviously I laughed out of embarrassment, but I feel bad now, looking back, that I didn’t say something to him.” he explains.
"On another occasion, I was sat with another black footballer, Nathan Arnold, and some children - who must only have been ten or eleven – threw banana skins at us.
"This one actually shocked me, as I couldn’t believe children so young were being taught this kind of thing.
"Also, whilst taking part in a football presentation I was told by a parent, who didn’t even bat an eyelid, that he ‘doesn’t agree with black lads being in the team’ and he said it without any realisation of what he was really saying to me.
"These are the kinds of things which happened on a regular basis, and still happen to this day, and I don’t think people necessarily realise what’s going on in their towns.”
Whilst Mr D’Laryea can recount many examples of racism directed at him, he does, however, look back to his time with Mansfield Town fondly, and says that there was ‘very little’ racist abuse directed at him by fans, despite the club’s relegation during his time there.
He also states firmly that he believes that most people in the area are not racist but that, until there is a level playing field for people of all colours in the area, residents must do more to call out those who are, and for people to stand up and be vocally anti-racist to help spread the message.
He is now calling on Ashfield’s MP to spread a clearer message, after his recent posts about boycotting the Euros.
He explains: "I was disappointed that Mr Anderson was extremely vocal on his MP platform on social media about his decision to boycott the games due to players taking the knee, but then has remained eerily silent in the wake of the racist abuse those same players received.
"I think, as MPs in a position of power, they should be setting the example and making very public statements to condemn the abuse, and show the people in their constituency that this will not be tolerated."
Mr D’Laryea had contacted Mr Anderson to query his decision not to publicly condemn the abuse and to engage with him on the subject, but was informed that, as the teacher had moved to Mansfield twelve months ago, parliamentary protocol meant that he should approach his own MP instead – something Mr D’Laryea found ‘incredibly frustrating’.
When questioned on this, the MP for Ashfield responded: “All forms of racism are abhorrent.
“Due to the threats and intimidation every time I posted about football, I have decided not to post anything else.
"I have been attacked both online and with publicity stunts driving around ridiculing me.
“I will go to any school in Ashfield to talk about racism, should Mr D'Laryea ask me to do so.
"As he is not a constituent of mine, I cannot assist him personally due to a strict parliamentary protocol – this was explained to him.
“I would like to thank the many constituents who have sent me emails of support.”