Raheem Sterling has been awarded an MBE for his services to racial equality in sport, with England team-mate Jordan Henderson similarly recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Manchester City winger has campaigned consistently against racism in football, most notably since a social media post in December 2018 after he was abused during a match at Chelsea.
Sterling highlighted the contrast in certain aspects of media coverage given to black and white footballers and was widely praised for making his feelings public. He has since leant his weight to initiatives such as the United Nations #FightRacism campaign, along with launching his own charitable foundation.
“Receiving this honour is a fantastic feeling and a proud moment - not just for myself but for my family and friends," the 26-year-old said.
"I am grateful to have been recognised but my priority is to try to help to educate society and myself. If it doesn’t start from within, then there’s no way you can help others. I’m learning every day.
"My motivation for racial equality is to get people to understand the difficulties people from diverse backgrounds face and create an environment where everybody is equal."
Premier League teams also campaigning for racial justice
The issue of protest in favour of racial equality has dominated the build-up to England's Euro 2020 campaign, with a section of home supporters booing their team for taking a knee in solidarity before kick-off.
Premier League teams have made the gesture - one synonymous with campaigns for racial justice going back to the days of Martin Luther King and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement - before all games since last year's coronavirus shutdown, with Sterling a vocal early supporter.
"I feel we are starting to make a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are still a lot of things we can get better at as a society, such as social media with people taking more accountability," Sterling said.
"I think that is a major factor in achieving the ultimate goal of racial equality. We also need to support young people and give them opportunities to show what they are capable of achieving.
"I’ve launched a foundation for underprivileged kids from deprived backgrounds. It’s something that I’m really excited to work on because I can relate to it and I will give 100 per cent.
"If I can help to change one or two lives then I’ve done a massive thing there. If you want to make change then it has to start from yourself."
Henderson honoured with MBE for his services to football
Liverpool captain Henderson was given an MBE for his services to football, having followed up 2018-19 Champions League success with the Premier League title in 2019-20, along with his charitable efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Henderson was a leading figure in captains from Premier League clubs establishing the #PlayersTogether initiative to support NHS Charities Together.
"There are many privileges that come from playing professional football, but having a platform to promote a charitable cause such as #PlayersTogether and NHS Charities Together is as big a privilege as any," Henderson said.
"It's important for me to state that although the honour has been issued to me personally, the credit must be shared to a far larger group of people and I accept this in the knowledge I was part of something special, rather than the reason for it.
"The other Premier League captains were the catalyst and the rest of the players, including my own teammates at Liverpool, were a driving force behind the scenes. Huge numbers of football fans, from across the country, also displayed great generosity in donating.
"But the true heroes are the NHS staff; they put themselves in harm’s way to serve and protect us. Therefore I dedicate this to all the nurses, doctors, carers, porters, admin workers, cleaners, security personnel and every single individual who devotes their career and their lives to making the NHS the part of British life we are rightly most proud of as a nation."