Former Crystal Palace midfielder Jonny Williams is proud of best friend Wilfried Zaha for standing up to racism and stepping forward in the fight for equality, especially with it being out of character for the winger.
The Ivory Coast international was sent racist messages and imagery on social media last month, which resulted in a 12-year-old boy being arrested in connection with the incident.
West Midlands Police have since released the individual under investigation, but Zaha, after bringing it to the attention of a wider audience, wants sites like Twitter and Instagram to do more to prevent people suffering racism.
Former team-mate Williams has known the winger since they were teenagers and progressed through Palace’s academy with the 27-year-old. He spoke of his pride at how one of his “best friends” has reacted.
“I think in one of his posts he mentioned he wouldn’t usually be the type to come out and post it (the racist abuse),” Wales international Williams told the PA news agency.
“I am sure there have been times when he has had that abuse in the past and maybe he has kept quiet or being Wilf, he just brushes anything off.
“He gets a lot of stick when he plays because that is how he is and everyone would love him on their team, but I am proud as a friend. I think people do need to realise and people shouldn’t have to shy away from the messages they receive.
“I honestly couldn’t believe that a 12-year-old had that in him to say to another human being. It is crazy and fair play to Wilf for bringing it to everyone’s attention.
“Now everyone seems to be doing the right thing and just making people more aware. I think something has got to change and by bringing it to everyone’s awareness, it has to happen and I am proud of players like that.
“I have played with lots of black players in the past and I can’t imagine the abuse some of the lads might have had in their lives. I think fair play to them for speaking out and getting everyone behind them because it is a tough time.”
Williams left Palace last summer eight years after his first-team debut and after almost two decades at the club.
He moved to Charlton on a permanent basis and despite a successful season on a personal basis, where he made 27 appearances and returned to the international scene, he could not stop the Addicks from going down.
🏆 Other end-of-season prizes see Jonny Williams pick up the PFA Community Champion of the Year award…
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) July 20, 2020
It means Williams has a decision to make over his future – does he exercise the option of an extra 12 months at the Valley or listen to the offers he has from Sky Bet Championship clubs?
Zaha also has plenty to ponder after Palace ended their seventh consecutive term in the Premier League with seven defeats out of eight to finish 14th – the joint-lowest they had been all season.
After returning to Selhurst Park from Manchester United in February 2015, the winger is weighing up his future and the club are braced for renewed interest, the PA news agency understands.
“I would say they are now a solid Premier League team and so the expectation level rises amongst Palace fans and as a club,” Williams added.
“People expect them now to be a top-10 team and the way they were going a few months ago, they probably should have been.
“It is a shame it ended like that but they still stayed up comfortably and that is credit to the manager to gain all those points early on.
“Usually Palace have a poor start and finish strong and stay up so it is a good atmosphere over the summer, but it is probably a bit different this year.
“I still look out for their results, see how they are getting on and see how Wilf is doing because he is a special talent and one of my best friends.”