Bernd Leno has said that footballers must act as role models in the fight against racism and discrimination.
The Arsenal goalkeeper was speaking amid a tidal wave of racial activism, with millions of people from across the world taking to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month.
The football world have been supportive of the movement and all Premier League players will feature a Black Lives Matter slogan on their shirts when action resumes next week.
Leno and his Gunners teammates also wore t-shirts bearing a similar message prior to their friendly against Brentford on Wednesday. In an interview with Sky Sports News, the German stopper insisted that sports stars have a key role to play in the fight against prejudice.
“We as players have so many people looking up to us as idols,” he began. “We have to show, as Arsenal, that we support you; it doesn’t matter if you are black or white, or what your religion is.
“It is sad in 2020 we are still discussing these things, but this is the reality and we have to keep pushing on this. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, we have to respect each other and everybody should have the same chances in life.”
Leno will return to action when Arsenal take on Manchester City on Wednesday and the 28-year-old revealed how anticipation is building ahead of the fixture.
“Everyone is getting more excited [about the season beginning],” he admitted. “I’m looking forward and probably everybody in the world is looking forward that Premier League football is going back at least to something like normal.”
Leno added that even though Arsenal will be underdogs, they are confident of stunning third place City.
“We can surprise City because nobody has the rhythm. I’m sure we can have a good start. Mikel (Arteta) knows every player and he knows the manager better than anyone,” he said. “I think Mikel will have a good game-plan and at this level we think we are a very good team.”