On a January evening 26 years ago, at a filling station on Barrack Road, two city blocks from Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park, Shaka Hislop and his wife, Desha, faced six young men who hauled racist insults at them.
When the teenagers got closer and realized the subject of their unprovoked hatred was Newcastle United’s goalkeeper, their racist abuse quickly turned into chanting his name.
As the youngsters pleaded for autographs, Hislop got in his car and left.
That experience – troubling as it may have been for the professional footballer in 1996 – led Hislop to help launch “Show Racism the Red Card,” the leading anti-racism educational charity in the United Kingdom. #SRtRC has grown into the United Kingdom’s largest anti-racism charity and Hislop’s most significant legacy as a professional footballer and now as an ESPN FC pundit on ESPN+/ESPN.
Earlier this month, Lord Mayor Habib Rahman of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne honored Hislop with the Freedom of the City of Newcastle award for “using his status as a Black professional football player to make a difference by challenging racism in football, the city, and society.”
With this award, Hislop joins an elite group of Freedom of Newcastle honorees, including Nelson Mandela (1986) and President Jimmy Carter (1977). He is also one in a rarified group of only four former footballers – John Edward Thompson “Jackie” Milburn (1980), Alan Shearer (2000), and Sir Bobby Robson (2005) – to be so honored dating back to the mid-17th Century.
Hislop shares his feelings about the Freedom of Newcastle honor with ESPN FC co-host Kay Murray in the video above.
ESPN FC produced the video. YouTube thumbnail photo of Shaka Hislop: Steve Brock