'It's very painful for me and my family' - Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips on racism and Black Lives Matter movement

The racism experienced by his friends and family is part of Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips's motivation for using his platform to say 'black lives matter.'

Saturday, 6th June 2020, 4:47 pm
Updated Saturday, 6th June 2020, 5:00 pm
PROFILE: Kalvin Phillips' rise to prominence at Leeds United has given him a platform that he's using to say 'black lives matter.' Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Phillips, 24, has been vocal on social media in the past week after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A video of his arrest by four police officers showed Floyd gasping that he could not breath. They have since been charged over the death and protests have taken place, along with Black Lives Matter demonstrations, around the world.

"Obviously I'm very moved about what's happened over in America, the protests, the movement that's going on," he said.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"I think it's the start of something new.

"I think the way it's grown and expanded from one country to another is incredible and everyone - not just us as black people - have come together and they want to fight and bring justice to what has happened in the last few years and the decades before."

When it comes to his own experience of racism, Phillips feels fortunate. But the same cannot be said for people he knows and loves. Their stories and their treatment at the hands of others, have impacted him.

"I think I'm quite lucky, because not many people know that I'm black," he said, explaining why he believes he hasn't had the same experience as other black people in his life.

"If you don't know me and you don't know my family you won't really know that I'm black.

"But I've got friends and family, sometimes they can't even walk down the street without being given a dirty look. I've got friends who can't even sit out in their front garden because they've got neighbours who shout towards them and treat them with no respect whatsoever.

"It's very painful for me and my family and very painful for a lot of people I know."

READ: Founder of Leeds West Indian Carnival says education is key in wake of Black Lives Matter movementPerformances in the middle of the pitch for his boyhood club Leeds have put Phillips in line for a potential England call up and marked him out as a future Premier League player.

He hit the headlines last summer when a number of top flight clubs showed interest and made eye-watering bids for the former Wortley FC junior.

Leeds were able to hang on to their homegrown star, only further boosting his popularity within the city and this season he has continued to shine, in a vital defensive midfield role for Marcelo Bielsa.

When the season was suspended, Phillips and Leeds were sitting top of the Championship and looking good in the Premier League promotion race.

His rise to prominence, coupled with Leeds' resurgence under Bielsa, has given him a platform that he wants to use to support black people and call for equal treatment.

A supporter's comment on one his recent posts suggested that the 'focus on colour can be misconstrued and potentially divisive.' Responses to Black Lives Matter posts have included phrases like 'all lives matter.'

"I've been using this phrase Black Lives Matter quite a lot," said Phillips.

"I'm not saying that all lives don't matter, I'm just saying that right now black people need support and they need help because of the racism going on all around the world.

"Football is the biggest sport in the world.

"As a professional footballers, not just as black professional footballers but as any race or any religion, it's massive to try and get this across.

"Just for people not to treat us as if we're different people because we're all the same."