THIERRY HENRY recalled being labelled a “black s***” on live TV as he opened up on his racism hell.
The Arsenal legend, 43, spoke honestly and bravely about his personal experiences in an emotional video call with Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and Olympic great Tommie Smith.
And the Frenchman – who moved to the USA in 2010 to join the MLS – detailed a case where he was abused during a live broadcast.
Montreal Impact manager Henry said: “At one point, I said people didn’t see my colour any more because I played football, because I was, in brackets, famous.
“When I came to play in the US, my colour came back because no one could recognise me, depending on which state we were in. My colour came back. It was the first time again that I felt like I left my neighbourhood.
“When I arrived in New York, some people could recognise me and some couldn’t.
“When you ask for a cab, he looks and sees you are a certain colour and puts the light on and suddenly he isn’t free any more. You’re left like, ‘Hang on I’m alone here’. It hit me again.
“I have been called a ‘black s***’ live on TV. It is what it is, you’ve heard it before but this was live on TV which made it like, ‘Wow…’.”
Henry posted a powerful response to George Floyd’s murder and racism in 2020 on his Instagram page in June.
And then in the following month, for Montreal’s first game back, he took a knee for the first eight minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of Floyd.
When I stepped out of my neighbourhood, people started to make me feel that I wasn’t human. The colour of my skin was a problem.
He wore a Black Lives Matter T shirt and raised his fist in a symbol of solidarity with the movement.
But the two-time Premier League winner knows the reality of racism on a personal level, discussing his childhood and then leaving the tough Les Ulis suburb of Paris.
Henry added: “I grew up in a bad neighbourhood, which at the time I thought was the best neighbourhood in the world because I couldn’t compare it to anything.
“Because there was a lot of diversity in my neighbourhood I didn’t realise anywhere was different.
“When I stepped out of my neighbourhood, I started to realise people started to make me feel that I wasn’t human.
“The colour of my skin was a problem, what I wore was a problem. In Europe sometimes if you have a hood on, suddenly that means you are from a bad neighbourhood.
“And if you have the colour to go with it, that’s a double bill.”
I have been collecting my thoughts for the past few days in order to eloquently describe my feelings on the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd. It would have been far too easy to write with emotion, hatred and vitriolic sentiment in the immediate aftermath. Although those feelings are still present, I will give it a try. Why is this still happening in 2020? Why do the same racists applaud any ethnic minority who plays for the team they support but abuse the same minorities on the street? Why are all the methods we are using to eradicate this from our society not working? It’s gone on for too long and we have come too far for this to be tolerated in modern society. I do not advocate violence, looting or destruction of property, as this will not solve any problems and many racially afflicted individuals are victims themselves of this behaviour. Why should the people be punished who have the same struggles, turmoil and racial abuse? The people who have worked their entire lives to feed their families and then have the fruits of the labour destroyed in protests against the issues they are suffering themselves? This is not the answer. However, we do urgently NEED change, we DEMAND change and most importantly, we DESERVE change. Make it happen, NOW. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
Like Henry, Hamilton has been at the forefront in raising awareness of racism by leading the protests in F1.
The British star, 35, has taken a knee before each race in the current season – despite criticism and lack of co-operation from some other drivers and the sport’s chiefs.
He also called on broadcasters to do more in supporting the anti-racism campaign by helping with educating the wider public on diversity and race.
In the call, arranged by Puma, Hamilton added: “I’m in a sport which is white dominated and there is very little diversity, for example. And with everything that happened in the States, it really brought up a lot of emotions for me.
“A lot of people think it is only happening in the States. Yes, there is the police brutality in the States but systemic racism is across the world.
“Very much in Europe and England. I experienced that a lot growing up in the UK and then when I started driving race cars.
“This year it has come around and I have got the sport now to acknowledge that it needs to do more.”