October 8 2016
It would be a “betrayal to all of the Africans who have lost their lives, or who have suffered as a result of the Empire.”
Many label Gayle as an activist who fights racism in and out of the soccer field. | Photo: Liverpool Echo
The first black men to play for English club Liverpool FC criticized the honor title for celebrating imperialism.
The first Black soccer player to have played for Liverpool F.C. said Friday the word ‘Empire’ should be removed from British honor titles to be more inclusive for minorities living in the U.K.
Betrayal to all of the Africans
The 58-year-old ex-star Howard Gayle turned down a Member of the Order of the British Empire this year as he argued it would be a “betrayal to all of the Africans who have lost their lives, or who have suffered as a result of the Empire.”
Gayle was nominated as MBE for working against racism in soccer as part of the “Kick It Out” campaign. He said he declined it “for the reason that my ancestors would be turning in their graves after how Empire and colonialism had enslaved them.”
The former player told the BBC he was surprised his decision turned into a story when he turned down the title.
Gayle in a match against Bayern Munich, European Cup Semi-Final, 1981 | Source: Liverpool Echo
“If they want to be inclusive and accepting of Black people around the U.K. and the Commonwealth, then they need to change the title of it–it’s an exclusive club being an MBE or OBE or one of those gongs.”
“A lot of people around the world contacted me to say they accepted my decision and that the title of MBE did rankle.”
King George V created the titles OBE and MBE during World War I to give out to civilians and military personnel for their outstanding contributions.
John Lennon returned his MBE after four years in 1965 in protest against the U.K.’s role in the Vietnam war, while poet Benjamin Zephaniah rejected an OBE in 2003 saying it represented colonial brutality and slavery. David Bowie refused an MBE as well, saying: “I seriously don’t know what it’s for.”