Australian soccer star of Indian heritage in court for alleged racism, pleads not guilty

Sam Kerr is being allegedly accused of a racially aggravated harassment of a police officer in London.

Sam Kerr, Australian soccer star and Matildas captain of Indian heritage, appeared via video link in Kingston crown court and pleaded not guilty to a charge of racially aggravated harassment of a British police officer.

Kerr, hailed as one of the brightest stars in Australian women’s football, is being allegedly accused of a racially aggravated harassment of a police officer in London.

In a statement, the sport’s governing body Football Australia (FA) said it was aware of the legal proceedings: “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to provide further comment at this time. Our focus remains on supporting all our players, both on and off the field. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide support as appropriate.”

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Image: Football Australia chief executive James Johnson (Source: screenshot)

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said it was “too early to tell” if the matter would impact Kerr’s role as Matildas captain.

“Sam has rights as an individual, she has pleaded not guilty and I think we need to remember that and we need to respect that.”

He added:

“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it at the moment. We have our own questions we would like to know. We have got to find out what actually happened.” 

The Metropolitan Police say Kerr’s charge relates to an alleged incident involving PC Lovell, who responded to a complaint about a taxi fare in the leafy suburb of Twickenham on January 30, 2023.

Court documents reveal Ms Kerr allegedly intended to cause the police officer — PC Lovell — “harassment, alarm or distress” by using “abusive or insulting words or behaviour”, or becoming “disorderly”.

Kerr’s lawyers are attempting to have the charge dismissed and avoid a criminal trial next year based on the “abuse of process” by Crown prosecutors after it took almost 12 months to lay the charge.

Image: Sam Kerr with family (Source: FIFA)

Kerr’s father, Roger Kerr, was born in Kolkata to an Indian mother and an English father. 

In an earlier interview with the BBC, Perth-born striker has expressed her eagerness to connect with her Indian heritage.

“I’m really proud to be Indian and love my skin colour and love my ‘Indian complexion’, as my nana (grandmother) says.”

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She added:

“I’ve listened to my nana and my dad’s stories about moving to Australia, feeling like outsiders, having to work their way into society at a time when it wasn’t very multicultural, and it’s taught me a lot. It was hard for my dad to be accepted as a dark-skinned man in Australia. Listening to what they went through has really influenced who I am and taught me to accept people for who they are.”

In January 2022, Kerr outranked Tim Cahill to become the highest-scoring player for Australia. She has scored 58 goals for Chelsea in the WSL where she’s played since 2020 after stints in Australia and the US.

Image: New South Wales Australian of the Year (Credit: © Salty Dingo 2022)

Former Socceroo Craig Foster told the Guardian that the allegations were “deeply distressing” and added that Kerr was entitled to the presumption of innocence, having pleaded not guilty.

“… Racism is a serious contractual issue and if proven, there would need to be sanctions applied as per any other player.”

Under Section 4 or 4a of the Public Order Act 1986, under which Kerr was charged, the racially or religiously aggravated version of an offence can attract a maximum penalty on summary conviction, which is six months imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both.

Athletes who undergo a court proceeding may face court penalties and employers can also take action under codes of conduct within their work agreements.

Kerr has an estimated income of $3.3 million per year in salary and endorsements. She works with six major brands, including Uber and Mastercard and is the face of Nike’s Mercurial boots. Kerr also has a deal with EA Sports as the first woman to grace the cover of its premier sports video game and features in Disney+ series Matildas: The World at Our Feet.

Kerr has won the Golden Boot award in leagues in three different continents. She was in 2022 awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia and was in 2018 named Young Australian of the Year.

Image: Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson (Source: CommBank Matildas)

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said he would support Kerr:

“I think FA was very clear on that as well, in terms of supporting our players on and off the field … and I understand why there’s a lot of questions about it, but of course as a human being I will always support.”

Kerr is due to appear at a trial at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court on 3 February 2025.

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