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Ferdinand-Football is “Sliding backward” Because of Racist Abuse Online

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10 Sep 2021
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Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand says racism is being normalized because of the prevalence of racist abuse online which is dragging football “backward”.

The former England captain was speaking to a joint parliamentary committee seeking possible improvements to the government’s draft Online Safety Bill.

Ferdinand said he had seen family members “disintegrate” after he was abused on social media and that it was “disheartening” to see racism in football rising to the levels of the 1970s and 80s.

The 42-year-old cited the abuse received by England players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho after July’s penalty shootout defeat by Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

“When those three players missed those penalties, the first thing I thought was ‘let’s see what happens on social media’,” Ferdinand said.

“I expected [the abuse] to happen.”

Rio Ferdinand further told the joint committee of MPs and peers that it was “baffling” that social media companies had tools that track copyright breaches on, for example, his YouTube channel but could not use that same technology to pick up certain emojis or words used in racially abusive posts.

He stressed that harmful content affected more than just the person who received it, saying: “I have seen members of my family disintegrate at times when it happens.”

“I have to sit there with my kids and explain what the monkey emoji means in that context,” Ferdinand added.

The former Leeds and West Ham players condemned the fact that perpetrators were allowed to remain anonymous online, saying it was “normalizing racist behavior”.

“If you put it in the context of a young person who supports a certain player at whatever level, he is looking through that feed and seeing racist language,” he continued.

“That young person then goes into his network of friends and ‘it’s fine, it’s normal so I’ll say that at school so it’s OK’.

“When there are no repercussions, there is nothing done to expose that person for their ignorant language, then people are going to think it’s normal.”



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