‘If you think I’m a racist, go f*** yourself!’: Anthony Joshua hits back at criticism of Black Lives Matter protest speech

Boxing world champion attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford where he read out a speech on behalf of someone who could not be in attendance, only for a video to be edited and shared to make it look like the comments were his own

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Monday 08 June 2020 07:46
Anthony Joshua reads out letter at Black Lives Matter protest in Watford

Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua has launched an angry defence against his critics after being accused of being a racist following his attendance at a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford.

The 30-year-old boxer, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight world championships, attended the peaceful protest on Saturday where he read out a speech on a microphone to the thousands in attendance.

The Watford-born fighter read out a speech that he confirmed at the time was on behalf of someone else who could not attend at the weekend, but a video of the clip was edited to cut-out his clarification, before being shared on social media making it look as though the comments to avoid businesses owned by white people were his own thoughts.

In the video, Joshua is heard to be said: “Show them where it hurts.

“Abstain from spending your money in their shops and economies, and invest in black-owned businesses.”

The video quickly went viral and led to Joshua receiving accusations of being a racist on social media, which prompted a stern response on Sunday night to tell them to “go f*** themselves”.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Joshua said: “If you think I'm a racist, go f*** yourself!

“If you watch the full video, the speech was passed around for someone to read and I took the lead.

“I personally spoke from the heart about the Watford community, ideas of us personally investing seven figures to create unity and opportunities and adding change to the African/Caribbean community.

“Shops aren't the issue here. Before you talk s***, you better boycott racism.”

Anthony Joshua was seen on crutches and a mobility scooter due to a knee injury

Joshua turned out at the protests in Watford on Saturday, which saw a peaceful march from the town centre to the nearby Cassiobury Park where he read out the speech as part of a number of readings as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. The 2012 London Olympics gold medallist is of Nigerian descent, and has made his pride of his roots known throughout his career with trips to the African country and showing off a tattoo of the continent on his arm.

However, Joshua did receive additional criticism for refusing to adhere to the government’s social distancing policy, with protesters in close contact by the thousands during Saturday’s events.

“I understand the concerns in regards to social distancing,” Joshua added.

“However I hope those who are complaining about social distancing have the same energy about those gathering for a day at the beach (and) those going to the park for a picnic.”

His attendance, which saw him arrive with a knee brace on his leg after picking up what he described as a “minor” injury during training recently, was fuelled by the death of African American George Floyd in the United States, with the 46-year-old killed while in police custody in Minnesota. A video showed policeman Derek Chauvin forcing his knee into the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes despite his complaints that he could not breathe, with Floyd announced dead shortly after.

Joshua plans to heavily invest his money into the black community in Watford, and spoke at length of why it is important for the government to do the same. He also spoke about changing the way the issue of racial inequality is viewed, having become a global superstar despite his previous history as a teenager of run-ins with the police and getting himself into trouble.

“But I know I've taken my street knowledge and put it into the corporate world and I've gained a lot of respect in that sense. So anyway, gang culture is done,” Joshua said.

Joshua dismissed fears over social distancing at the protest

“We have to engage with the youth and put an end to black youth gang culture. This postcode war - how many houses do we own on that postcode that we're fighting for?

“Let's inject the vaccine. Every life matters - 100 per cent I agree with that. But that does include black lives and that's why we're here today.

“George Floyd - we're all aware of his name - was the catalyst in a list that is already way, way, way too long.”

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