Craig Foster issues lengthy apology to Sam Kerr in the wake of alleged racism saga with UK police

Australian football great Craig Foster has issued a lengthy apology to Sam Kerr in the wake of the racism allegations that have been levelled at the Matildas captain by a UK police officer.

Kerr has yet to comment publicly after pleading not guilty in a London court to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer.

She is accused of allegedly calling the police officer a “stupid white b******”, for which she is charged with using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to PC Lovell during an incident in Twickenham on January 30 last year.

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“The charge relates to an incident involving a police officer who was responding to a complaint involving a taxi fare,” the UK’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement earlier this week.

Foster says many, including himself, got it wrong in their initial reactions to Kerr’s alleged slur, but that it has provided an opportunity to learn.

“Sam Kerr’s case has created immensely important conversations and exposed gaps in Australia’s knowledge, including mine. I am not at all surprised to have got this wrong, apologise to Sam for reaching the wrong conclusion and am very pleased to be able to improve my advocacy,” Foster wrote, before sharing an extended statement.

The 54-year-old started: “Sport must take the strongest stance against racism.

“In Australia, we have struggled to manage many situations across multiple codes, and I often argue that if sport doesn’t get this right, given its immense cultural importance, then Australia will continue to fail to deal with all forms of racism that hold us back from creating a safe and equal society for all.

Sam Kerr’s lawyers will seek to have her racial harassment charge dropped. Credit: Getty Images

“Following last year’s Voice Referendum, when we saw a gusher of racism in Australian society, the need for national racism education is critical, from schools to TAFE’s, Universities, and workplaces so that we can reach our aspirations of a safe, welcoming, and fair Australia.

“The evident gaps in much of our knowledge when approaching the Sam Kerr case, alone, should be the spur we need to make it happen. I fully support a national anti-racism framework for this reason.”

Foster, who had 29 caps for the Socceroos between 1996 and 2000, admitted that Kerr’s incident, at the very least, threw up a number of questions over the definitions of racism and the potential double standards therein.

“The alleged comments by Sam Kerr, reported widely this week, have created an immensely important conversation that we are all learning from,” Foster continued.

“Were they racist? Even when directed at a white person?

“What is the significance of the power differentials? Could a person of colour even be guilty of racism? What would happen if the roles were reversed and are there double standards?

“And very importantly in our sport, what do we tell the millions of kids who play the game around Australia about what is permissible behaviour, given that this is an Australian captain?

“All important questions. Like many, I mistakenly thought that comments that referenced any colour and were discriminatory, demeaning or hostile were a form of racism.

“I apologise to Sam for that mistake.”

Craig Foster has issued an apology to Sam Kerr. Credit: Kim Landy/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Foster encouraged others, as he has, to educated themselves and grow from ignorance — and thanked those who already have.

“Judging from the coverage, comments, and conversations we’re all having, every day, there were major gaps in knowledge about how to deal with situations where the descriptor ‘white’ is used in a derogatory way. If you have been open enough to read, listen, research and change your understanding, I thank you,” he said.

“As many experts and leading anti-racism groups have pointed out, interpersonal comments can be offensive, abusive, or inappropriate, however racism can only be perpetrated against a marginalised person or group, which anti-racism frameworks are specifically designed to protect.

“The Diversity Council of Australia definition is: ‘Racism is when an individual or organisation with race-based societal power discriminates, excludes, or disadvantages a racially based person because of their race, colour, descent, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or immigrant status. Racism can be conscious or unconscious, active, or passive, obvious, or subtle’.”

“’Does that equate to double standards when the same terms or phrases are used against marginalised groups?’, is the question.

“The answer is no.

“Because the power differential and therefore impact are vastly and fundamentally different. Those of us who aren’t from a minority background cannot possibly know how it feels to be told that we don’t belong, don’t speak the language, don’t look right, to ‘go back where you came from’ or to have faced intergenerational racism.

Matildas skipper Sam Kerr faces trial in the UK in February next year. Credit: AAP

“While the UK is evidently different, in Australia, definitions of racism were not designed to protect me, as a white, Anglo, Australian male nor a white police officer who has even greater legal, and racial power.

“That’s because I cannot experience racism in Australia. My right to speak is not questioned, I am in the cultural, racial, and linguistic majority, aren’t attacked for my name, colour, head dress or religion as many arc, and am made to feel that I have a right to belong which is why, like many of you, I am deeply committed to making sure that no other Australian faces personal, institutional or systemic racism.

“I am not at all surprised at having made a mistake and am very pleased to be able to learn and be more effective in my advocacy. After all, I often tell people: ‘These conversations are challenging, just approach it in good faith, learn, correct mistakes and grow’. Now is my chance.”

Football Australia (FA) hierarchy have been in touch with Kerr and her management amid increasing speculation about the global football star’s case.

Her lawyers are set to argue an abuse of process at a pre-trial hearing on April 26 and seek to have the charge downgraded or dropped.

The April hearing comes ahead of a trial slated for next February, after Kerr was charged with using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to a police officer during an incident in Twickenham, southwest London, on January 30 last year.

Kerr was charged on January 21 this year and kept her court appearance on Monday in the UK secret from FA.

In a fresh statement on Friday, FA chief executive James Johnson said he wants to “reaffirm our support for Sam Kerr amidst the current allegations”.

“Sam has pleaded not guilty and her right to a fair and just legal process is important,” Johnson said in the statement.

“We trust the judicial system to handle this matter appropriately and urge respect for the legal proceedings.

“We are in touch with Sam and her team and Football Australia is committed to supporting Sam throughout this process.”

With Summer Wooley and AAP

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