sport news John Barnes says Raheem Sterling is one of society's most influential people

John Barnes is well placed to empathise with Raheem Sterling.

Just like Sterling today at Manchester City, 30 years ago Barnes was the star man spearheading a title charge with Liverpool. And just like Sterling today, in the late 80s Barnes endured racist taunts while playing.

For that picture of Sterling being abused by Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge last December, see Barnes, a fellow Jamaican-born Englishman, back-heeling a banana skin off the pitch when Liverpool played at Everton in 1988.

Like Raheem Sterling, John Barnes endured racist abuse in his playing days 30 years ago

Like Raheem Sterling, John Barnes endured racist abuse in his playing days 30 years ago

Sterling was abused by Chelsea fans playing for Manchester City last December

Sterling was abused by Chelsea fans playing for Manchester City last December 

Sterling responded to taunts in Montenegro last week by suggesting they have a stadium ban

Sterling responded to taunts in Montenegro last week by suggesting they have a stadium ban

Their shared experiences unite them but Barnes believes Sterling has a platform for change he could never have imagined in the 80s. Sterling, Barnes says, is one of society's most influential figures.

'He is,' Barnes tells Sportsmail. 'I would like to have a conversation with Raheem.

'Back in my day if we felt the same way as Raheem, we weren't allowed to express it. Back then you would be told if you spoke out against the discrimination you were getting, you had a chip on your shoulder so you had to keep your mouth shut.

'Of course now, times have changed. I wish I was around now (to) actually make a real difference in the fight against discrimination. Not just from a racial point of view but from a homophobic and sexist point of view. I think in that respect high profile sportsmen are extremely important.'

In the aftermath of being subjected to racial taunts during England's 5-1 win over Montenegro last week, Sterling suggested stadium bans may have to be introduced, even in England, to try and combat discrimination.

Barnes disagrees. For actual progress to emerge, he says education and empathy must be in place for those who abuse, no matter how close to home they are.

'I don't believe closing stadiums and walking off pitches is the answer. If you are going to put your head above the parapet and start talking about it, be truthful. 

'If I am going to talk about racism in football when I played, I will tell you now that my Liverpool team-mates racially abused the opposition. Because everybody did.

'From my perspective, the answer is only through education and letting people know why it

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