The first Black soccer player for English club Liverpool said that he declined a nomination for a British state honor, the Member of the British Empire, or MBE, because he felt he would be betraying his Black ancestors who suffered oppression at the hands of British colonialism.
Debuting for Liverpool in 1977, Howard Gayle, 58, said via Facebook that “unfortunately I had to decline the nomination for the reason that my ancestors would be turning in their graves after how empire and colonialism had enslaved them.”
He said he was nominated for the MBE because of work with the anti-racism organization, Show Racism a Red Card. The UK based charity uses well known footballers to help educate and train people, particularly younger generations, against racism.
Gayle said that while some may be attracted to the title of the MBE, he believed that accepting the honor would “be a betrayal to all the Africans who have lost their lives, or who have suffered as a result of Empire.”
Gayle, who was born in Toxteth, in the city’s south, was Liverpool’s first Black player. Nowadays the UK has arguably the most culturally diverse soccer competitions in the world.
Gayle has previously mentioned that being the first Black player for his former club got a lot of media coverage, where many labelled him as an activist and self-righteous.
“I was a landmark as far as black people were concerned, and I was proud to represent the black community of Liverpool,” Gayle was quoted on Liverpool fan website, This is Anfield.
David Bowie refused an MBE as well as the higher honor of knighthood, saying that “I seriously don’t know what its for.”
John Lennon gave back he MBE in 1969 to protest Britain’s involvement in the Vietnam War and the Biafran War in modern day Nigeria. British-Jamaican writer, Benjamin Zephaniah, also refused the award on anti-colonial grounds in 2003.
The British empire at its height was the world largest with colonies spread across every continent and was known as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” Millions of people have been estimated to have been oppressed by the British colonialism including India, Jamaica, China and Australia.
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