Roberts: I'd shake Terry's hand
Jason Roberts admits he would shake John Terry's hand, but the Reading striker raised eyebrows on Thursday by refusing to say whether he thought the Chelsea skipper was a racist.
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Roberts was one of a number of players who last week boycotted Kick It Out's annual initiative of wearing anti-racism T-shirts to highlight their efforts to rid the game of the problem.
The 34-year-old, who is a Kick It Out ambassador, says the organisation, and football authorities, are simply not doing enough to clamp down on the issue, which has reared its head again several times recently.
Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches last season and Terry has recently received a four-match suspension for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, although the former England defender was cleared of a similar charge in a criminal court this summer.
Ferdinand refused to shake Terry's hand when the two met in the latest west London derby, but Roberts said he would never do such a thing.
"I would, yeah," Roberts said when asked whether he would shake Terry's hand.
If that was seen as a diplomatic move to try to reach out to Terry, what followed was far less forthcoming.
When asked whether he thought the 31-year-old was a racist, the straight-faced Roberts replied: "I would shake his hand, definitely."
When the question was asked again, the Granada-born striker again refused to answer it directly and merely repeated the words: "I would shake his hand."
Although Roberts was confident about the chances of one day eradicating the problem of racism in football, his tone was one of clear frustration that an issue that was prevalent in the game many decades ago still lingers strongly.
Although it appears the saga of who shakes whose hand appears to be coming to an end - Rio Ferdinand is expected to shake Ashley Cole's when the two meet on Sunday despite a feud linked to the Terry trial - it is clear that some black players have become frustrated by the authorities' perceived sluggishness in dealing with the matter.
Roberts confirmed on Thursday he will not wear a Kick It Out T-shirt before Reading's game against Fulham on Saturday and insists he will not join the campaign's activities until a new set of rules and sanctions have been put in place.
"No, I won't (wear the shirt) - that's my own choice," the former Blackburn striker said.
"If it was a T-shirt from another organisation I wouldn't have worn that either.
"This is not an attack on Kick It Out. I am passionate about the PFA and Kick It Out but they have to do better, we have to do better.
"When we have implemented changes, when we are acting and things are being done, I will be the first person wearing a shirt and driving up and down the country again in my car speaking to kids again about this."
Roberts also dismissed the claim that the issue has been blown out of all proportion. When asked whether he had played either with or against a racist, he said: "Yes, sure, definitely, absolutely.
"I have been in some really tough situations on the pitch and have heard some stuff you wouldn't like to hear.
"There was a time when you just got on with it. You used to think 'I'll score a goal and prove you wrong' - but times have moved on now and the new generation of players are not prepared to accept that.
"Now we need to move this discussion further so they don't have to put up with stuff like that."
Kick It Out was urged on Thursday to sever its funding ties with the Football Association (FA) in order to mount a more credible fight against discrimination within the game by Manchester United non-executive director Michael Edelson.
Kick It Out currently receive £110,000 each from the FA, the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association, with the Premier League bridging a £60,000 funding gap last year.
However, that obvious link has led to accusations Kick It Out is compromised in its dealings with the game's authorities.
"Kick it Out is a genuine charity," Edelson said.
"They employ six people and a non-executive chairman and have done a great job.
"I can't tell them what to do. But they could uncompromise themselves and start to collect money in the way YMCA or Great Ormond Street or Christie's do it.
"I would say the next stage for Kick It Out is to get its independence from the Football Association and get people on it who are able to lobby organisations."