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Sherlock: Racism never leaves you

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Dublin selector Jason Sherlock. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Dublin selector Jason Sherlock. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Dublin selector Jason Sherlock. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Jason Sherlock has urged the GAA to redouble its efforts to ensure a more diverse and inclusive association, free from racism.

The Dublin legend was speaking in the wake of a heightened focus on racism in all walks of Irish life, stemming from the death at American police hands of George Floyd and the worldwide 'Black Lives Matter' protests that followed.

"This is certainly not about knocking the GAA. I've been very lucky to receive an unbelievable career and experience from playing GAA, and I've been welcomed in every part of Ireland because of that," Sherlock said last night on The Sunday Game.

"But what we're here to try and do is look at the solutions of what we can do? Can we look at what we do in our summer camps with kids? Can we look at how inclusive our clubs are for people that wouldn't traditionally go into GAA clubs?

"From a moderation point of view, and I know there's experiences with referees - they're still not sure what's right or wrong.

"I was empowered when I saw the likes of Aaron Cunningham (Crossmaglen footballer) and Lee Chin (Wexford hurler), they knew what was right or wrong in terms of what was said and what wasn't said.

"We all have a responsibility, not just the referee; it's obviously the moderators, to give them the tools to be able to decide on what's right or wrong."

On the subject of racist slurs from the stands, the Dublin All-Ireland winning player (in 1995) and selector-coach (under Jim Gavin) commented: "We know GAA is a passionate kind of game, and we don't want to take that out. But at the same time, are there comments made at matches that shouldn't be made, and do we do anything about that?

"So, again, I think we have great games. It's important that we ensure that we continue to have a diverse and inclusive GAA community going forward."

The GAA has undertaken various initiatives in the past, including its 'Responding to Racism' educational and awareness campaign launched last March. The association's anti-sectarian, anti-racist ethos is enshrined in the Official Guide.

However, since the broader issue of racial discrimination became headline news, several young GAA stars have spoken out about the verbal abuse they have suffered on the field.

This was the context for last night's RTÉ appearance of Sherlock (whose late father was from Hong Kong) and current Westmeath footballer Boidu Sayeh (born in the war-torn African state of Liberia but living here since the age of eight).

Both men touched on the racism they have faced here in Ireland.

Sherlock (below) said: "I remember every kind of situation I had where I was slagged, be it by a player, a crowd, a manager. That doesn't leave you, and you still remember and you still harness all the self-doubt, all the anger, all the frustration, all the emotion that goes with a situation like that.

"So, I suppose us talking about things like this, if that can assist one boy or girl in the GAA community and makes things a bit better for them, I think it's worth exploring."

Sayeh moved to Ireland in 2004 after being adopted by an uncle, Ben, and his wife Therese, a native of Rosemount near Moate.

"When I was younger I experienced stuff, the self-doubt, getting comments … I really didn't talk about it or I didn't express it too much. I always just took it in and let it slide really," the corner-back recounted.

"But it was only when I got older, remembering all these comments, and you're thinking, 'Wow, how did I take that?'"

Expanding on one hurtful experience from his primary school days, Sayeh revealed: "I got comments from kids when I was only about eight or nine and (it) upset me a lot. It was kind of 'Go back to where you came from' … 'You don't belong here' … but the parents of those kids talked to their kids and told them it was wrong. It was good for my mother and it was good for me as well to hear that."

Sherlock spoke about how, "when the colour of your skin kind of singles you out, you look for that acceptance. And for a lot of people it's through sport. It was very much the case for me, because I wanted to fit in, and in a lot of ways I denied my heritage."