Kobe Bryant calls for more education to tackle racism in soccer

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LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 18: NBA legend Bill Russell shakes hands with Kobe Bryant at halftime after both of Bryant’s #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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Basketball legend Kobe Bryant believes more education is needed to tackle the scourge of racism in soccer.

The 41-year-old, a five-time NBA champion, lived in Italy from the age of six to 13 while his father played professional basketball.

He developed a love of soccer there, but also witnessed racism first hand before moving back to the United States where he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s always education and understanding that racism is a thing that’s been a part of our culture for a while,” Bryant told CNN’s Andy Scholes at a Major League Soccer event in California.

“Even though now we’ve come such a long way but there’s still so much to be done and I think education is always the most important thing.”

READ: FIFA and UEFA ‘may as well have stood in stands’ with racists, says ex-England star

There have been a number of high-profile incidents of racism in football in recent times, notably in Italy, and not just limited to fan behavior at games.

In December, anti-racism artwork commissioned by Serie A was widely condemned as racist for its use of monkeys. In the same month, the Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport received significant backlash for its “Black Friday” headline above a picture of black players Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku.

“When I was growing up in Italy, I’ve obviously witnessed it first-hand going to certain soccer matches and things of that nature,” added Bryant.

“My parents have taught me and educated me on how to deal with those sorts of things.”

READ: Italian football vows to combat its ‘serious problem’ with racism

Bryant said the approach of a number of high-profile sports stars has contributed to how he handles racism.

“I think speaking up and taking a stand, a significant stand [is important],” he added.

“Looking at various muses that have handled things extremely well, from Jackie Robinson to Bill Russell and so forth and so on, so I think education is very important.”

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