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Social responsibility is everyone’s business – Kieran Gibbs

Written by on 26 December 2020

Athletes must use their platforms to create social change, according to West Bromwich Albion left-back Kieran Gibbs.

The footballer has spent Christmas working with former Arsenal teammates Mesut Ozil and Matheiu 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.

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The campaign hopes to connect 50 different charities

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

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.

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Picture of the Warmer Winters campaign, supported by Kieran Gibbs, Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini. Project is in North London.
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The Warmer Winters campaign operates in north London

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.

“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.”

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha takes a knee in in honour of Black Lives Matter movement during the Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham
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Football players have been taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter

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.

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.”