'I’ve been three people in this world to white people: a footballer, a rapper or a drug dealer' - Andre Gray on racism

It only takes a few minutes listening to Premier League footballer Andre Gray before you sense the anger and frustration simmering just below the surface.

They are strong emotions carved from years of being judged differently that are usually hidden from the outside world.

But not now; not since George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Gray believes Floyd’s death and the subsequent reaction to it, is an opportunity to force genuine change, especially in the UK where those who believe racism is all but eradicated will find what Watford’s striker has to say, very sobering.

“Protests like these are happening for a reason.

"They’re not just about George Floyd and for what’s going on in America, it’s about what’s happening in England as well.”

So how does Gray believe that manifests itself on a daily basis, what is his experience?"

“To me I’ve been three people in this world to white people.

"I’m either a footballer, a rapper or a drug dealer.

"I’m never looked at as a lawyer, I’m never looked at as an estate agent or a police officer.”

But what are the ways this prejudice plays out?

“It’s going to nightclubs; you have to go in twos and threes to get in, to even having a chance of getting in.

"It’s going to shopping centres, to designer shops and being followed by security.

"It’s all these things that privileged people never ever see because they’ve never had to have that feeling.

"The list goes on."

Even now Gray is regularly stopped in his car and says the police only change their demeanour once they’ve checked his driving licence and realise he’s a footballer.

“For every one black judge there’s a thousand white judges, for every one black police officer there’s one hundred white police officers.

"We’re never allowed to climb up the system to make any change.”

Gray dedicated some of his spare time in the past decade researching the American civil rights movement.

Tattoos on his back depict legendary figures who have campaigned for equality; they include Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, the Mexico City Olympics protesters Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos and, the best-known freedom fighter of all, Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela and then wife Winnie walks out of prison in 1990. Credit: AP

Perhaps he feels now all that reading can be put to good use.

“The thing that annoys me now more than anything is a lot of what’s been portrayed in the last year or so about black-on-black crime, kids killing other kids.

"This is how the system has been designed around the world.

"In America, in England, in France, in all these places, black people are put into these small communities, poverty-stricken communities.

"We’re more likely to be unemployed, less likely to get mortgages than the white person.

"We are put in these communities where literally we are fighting to survive.”

What do we expect, Gray continues, when mothers are struggling to feed their families on rice and beans every night and there’s never enough money to pay for something to eat during the day?

Protests following the death of George Floyd have been taking place across the US. Credit: AP

“What chance have they got when they’re 13, 14, 15 and they’re seeing people, drug dealers or whatever make something of themselves and help their parents?

"It’s deeper than that but this is how the system is designed.”

Gray is urging high profile footballers and other celebrities to use their social media platforms to make a difference.

“We have people who follow us, young people who follow us.

"We’re role models.

"So yes, we have a massive role to play.

"We’ve got to keep pushing it.

"Not this moment for one week.

"Even if George Floyd gets justice there’s still a lot of things need to change.”

Andre Gray believes schools' curriculums need to change. Credit: ITV News

School he believes could play a big part but only if the curriculum reflects modern day issues.

“It’s about the younger generation now.

"Regardless if their parents are racist, if they’re getting taught it in school, if they learn about what happened and what happens to black people.

"The next generation need to understand about the equality part of life and not just about Henry VIII and Macbeth, and things that are irrelevant to what’s going on in the real world."

The alternative is both scary and depressing in equal measure.

“They need educating or there’s going to be a race war for the rest of our lives”

When it comes to football, Gray fears that sooner rather than later a footballer is going to lash out, especially if those running the game don’t take a stronger stance against fans who abuse players, either at a stadium or on social media.

“Are we going to keep complaining, keep reporting these people or is it going to get physical soon? It’s like bullying.

"There’s only so much someone can keep bullying someone and then they snap.

"For them [the FA or Premier League] it’s just a bit of racial abuse.

"If they’re not going to do anything, what are the players going to do, keep ignoring it?”

Colin Kaepernick was ostracised for starting the 'take a knee' movement in 2016. Credit: AP

And that he believes is where football is, on the edge of a dangerous precipice.

“One day it’s going to happen, outside the stadium, someone’s in your face and guess what’s going to happen?

"And if we hit someone, we’re going to be the ones that get in trouble.”

Gray is not looking for empty gestures either, something he accuses the NFL of engaging in this week when it released a statement rejecting racism and admitting it was wrong not to allow players to take a knee during the American national anthem before games.

Players who did were largely exiled from the game and Gray says the governing body’s change of heart is transparent.

“Last year you sacked Colin Kaepernick for having a peaceful protest.

"You weren’t defending him then but now you are because you’re under pressure and have to be seen to do something.”

There’s no sugar coating Gray’s beliefs, and for many they might make uncomfortable reading, but then that is exactly what he’s hoping for.

That and a significant change in the country’s collective attitude.