04.06.2020 | 1. Mannschaft

"It's about human rights"

English Version: Interview with Zack Steffen about the situation in the USA and protests against racism

Fortuna Düsseldorf actively opposes racist, anti-constitutional and xenophobic tendencies as well as discriminating or inhuman behaviour, especially on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual identity or disability. This is stated in the constitution of the traditional football club. The same is currently being done by goalkeeper Zack Steffen, in whose home country, the USA, there are numerous demonstrations after the death of George Floyd, in which participants speak out against racism and police violence against African Americans. The national goalkeeper is actively engaged against racism. www.f95.de has talked to him about it.

Zack, how do you see the current situation in the USA from a distance?
Of course I see what's going on in my home country. The video, which shows a policeman kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, is a direct slap in the face and shows there are police officers who don't care about the lives of black people. This is not a political act. It is about human rights, which should be important to everyone.

The problem of racism is not a recent one.
No, it has existed all over the world since man was created. It is real. White supremacy was real when the first Europeans came to America and conquered the country. It was real when they stole Africans and enslaved them for their own benefits. for blacks there are still no equal rights and no justice for hundreds of years of oppression. The people have had enough of that.

Can you tell us about your experiences of racism?
I was really lucky. My mother is white, my father is black, and I had a white stepfather. So my sisters and I grew up in a "white household" and didn't have many problems that African Americans have to struggle with every day. That was a great privilege. All the more I want to use my voice now to help those who have experienced social injustice and racism. I was brought up in a house where people are kind to each other and treat people the way you expect them to be treated. It is disgusting that there are parents out there who apparently don't raise their children that way. And it's time for that to change.

The majority of your family lives in the USA. Are you worried about them?
Yes, of course and i worry for all Americans. My family lives in a suburb of Philadelphia, about three quarters of an hour from the city. So they're not directly in the big city, which is currently very chaotic. From Philadelphia I have seen many videos in which the police attack peaceful demonstrators. They provoke violence and want to ruin our goals, which we want to achieve peacefully. They try to change the narrative and blame us for the escalations, which is absurd.

To change things, you have started a project on social media. What do you want to achieve with it?
It's a platform called "Voycenow". Our goal is to bring athletes from different sports together and to create a community where we can listen to each other and discuss, but also to bring projects forward and donate for meaningful actions. I want to fight for change. The same way we speak out about problems on social media, that' s the way we should act.

You are not alone in the USA with your clear position. National soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe is very opinionated, NFL or NBA winners don't visit the White House after championships - what role do political statements by athletes play in the US?
As athletes we are in the focus. We are observed and celebrated. People pay money to see us play. That's why we have a stage and attention. Fans follow us on social media because they want to know who we are outside the field. Through our statements we clearly show who we are, what we are interested in, what we live for and what we are fighting for.

How did you notice the actions of your Bundesliga colleagues Weston McKennie, Jadon Sancho or Marcus Thuram last weekend?
It was good to see. Like I just said: fans look up to athletes and they respect what we say. That's why we have to stand up and speak for the people who don't have a voice or who are not heard.

Finally, what would you like to give to Germans or whites who want to learn more about the protest movements?
As a white person you are not in the shoes of black people. And if you don't have such a message because it doesn't affect you directly, it's okay not to say anything, then just listen. Obviously, white people have privileges that make it impossible to understand where we are coming from, You have never experienced it yourself and you can never experience it yourself. Nevertheless I beg you: Stand up against racism and don't sit back. We don't need you on the bench, we need you all as our support on the field. Stand together with us. Because this world should not be governed by hate.

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