Raheem Sterling says he didn’t think twice about joining Chelsea this season despite receiving racist abuse at Stamford Bridge previously in his career.
Chelsea banned a fan for life from its stadium following an incident during an English Premier League match in December 2018.
The individual was found to have used “racially abusive language and threatening and aggressive behavior” toward Sterling while he was playing for Manchester City, the club said.
Five other fans were also banned for between one and two years for “abusive language and threatening and aggressive behavior.”
However, Sterling says the experience “wasn’t something that played on my mind at all” when deciding on his new club.
“I can’t let an incident from individuals change my perception of the club,” Sterling told reporters ahead of Chelsea’s match against Tottenham on Sunday, per Reuters.
“I have no hatred or malice towards the individual,” Sterling added when asked if he would be willing to meet the man banned for life. “That’s something that I could do right here, right now, or tomorrow. That’s not an issue.”
Sterling completed his move to Chelsea from Manchester City this summer having won four league titles at the Etihad.
While excelling on the pitch, the 27-year-old has tried to use his platform to help combat racism and says his ability to help others in society is his “true purpose” away from football.
Following the racist incident in 2018, Sterling uploaded a post on social media highlighting the difference in the way the media speaks about young black players and white players.
He argued that the media plays a role in perpetuating racial prejudices in society, and he has since become something of an unofficial spokesman for his generation of players on the issue of equality.
“Of course, football is my main goal and my main talent, but it’s the other thing that gives me the most joy, that’s helping people,” he added.
“I’ve moved away from the racial side of it and am focused more on helping and nurturing young Black people.”
Sterling says a lack of playing time at Manchester City prompted his move to the London club and says he’s excited by the opportunity.
Chelsea won its opening game of the season against Everton 1-0 but now faces a much sterner test against Tottenham at the weekend.