Bill Russell and Kobe Bryant

NBA legend Bill Russell shakes hands with Kobe Bryant after Bryant’s #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys were retired in 2017 at Staples Center. — Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian

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.”

There have been a number of high-profile incidents of racism in soccer 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,” Bryant said.

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

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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