Since 1970, the National Football League in America have been awarding a ‘Man of the year’ award every year. The award is given to the player in the league who has made the most impact off the field – as well as on it.
Up until 1999, the award was simply known as ‘NFL man of the year’ but it was changed to the ‘Walter Payton man of the year award’ following the former Chicago Bears running back’s death. It was named in Payton’s honour due to his extraordinary humanitarian work.
I think it’s about time that the Premier League think about introducing something similar into our game. Not necessarily just for players who do charity work or who volunteer, but for those who make any sort of an impact away from the field of play.
For example, Raheem Sterling would sweep it up this year due to the fantastic way he has conducted himself in the numerous racism scandals he has been forced to endure. He has been a continued target for the nations press and has suffered racist abuse away at Chelsea, and just last night in Montenegro. Sterling, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi all reported hearing racist chanting following England’s 5-1 win on Monday evening.
Sterling took to Instagram back in December following the abuse he received away at Chelsea to educate our media on racism. He posted screen grabs of two stories regarding young Manchester City players, one black and one white.
Both articles were telling the same story, a young footballer buying his parents a home, but the difference in the way they reported was nothing short of disgraceful. The black player was made to look like a reckless child where the white player was made to look like a loving son doing something amazing for his Mum. It comes to something when a footballer has to be the one to educate the sporting media on unconscious racism.
Another example of a worthy winner would be Jermain Defoe and the way he conducted himself when young Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The young Mackem and his hero became close friends before Bradley unfortunately passed away in 2017.
I think it’s high time that players who have this much of an impact on the lives of people away from the field are recognised. Those players will tell you that they don’t do the things they do to receive plaudits, but whether or not it was their intention, it’s what they deserve.
‘The Premier League man of the year award’ sounds damn good to me.