Kieran Gibbs: West Brom defender says social responsibility is everyone's business

West Brom left-back Kieran Gibbs says the coronavirus pandemic has "helped us realise how fortunate we are" and pressed home a responsibility to help others; watch Liverpool vs West Brom live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4.15pm on Super Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm

Kieran Gibbs
Image: Kieran Gibbs says athletes must use their platforms to create social change

West Brom defender Kieran Gibbs says athletes must use their platforms to create social change.

Gibbs has spent Christmas working with former Arsenal team-mates Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini to feed 40,000 people across north London.

Explaining how sport is more than just performance on the pitch, he said: "It was obviously a lot of work in four days but I think it had such a direct impact on people.

"It's frontline help that gets straight to the people that need it, and I think that is the biggest thing for me."

The Warmer Winters campaign operates in north London
Image: The Warmer Winters campaign operates in north London

The former Gunners star says north London remains close to his heart, and that he hopes the Warmer Winters campaign can help connect 50 local charities to work together to make a positive change.

Gibbs admits that in 2020 there's been a shift in the way clubs and corporate sponsors support athletes campaigning for social justice and human rights.

The response to the killing of George Floyd, he notes, was treated markedly different to the reaction to the stand taken by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

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"I think [campaigning for social justice] is becoming a lot more prominent and rightly so," he said.

"Athletes' opinions matter and sure, a lot of things are performance and results related, but sometimes there's a bigger message out there and I think people are starting to realise that they can use their platforms to show what they believe in."

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Gibbs, who joined Arsenal's youth academy in 2004, played alongside Ozil for four years. He says the German World Cup winner helped mentor him both on and off the pitch.

"When I met Mes, one of the first things that struck me about him, was his impact on giving back," said the 31-year-old.

"This year, the coronavirus pandemic has helped us realise how fortunate we are. We have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. There's a lot of value in that."

Earlier this month French footballer Antoine Griezmann announced he was to end his sponsorship deal with Huawei after reports that the telecoms company was involved in the surveillance of Muslim Uighurs in China - a claim Huawei denied.

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Gibbs thinks campaigning for social justice and human rights isn't just for footballers.

"There's a responsibility on anyone who's in a fortunate position to help out the less fortunate, whether you're an athlete or a CEO of a bank or a big corporation," he said.

"Sport obviously helps bring us all together but at the same time I think the message now is bigger than that.

"We need to realise that the wealth gap is increasing, and if we don't come together now, we're only going to grow further apart."

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