Ex-Man Utd star Rio Ferdinand talks of pain of online abuse


London (AFP) – Former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand said Thursday there was a “disheartening” inevitability about the racist abuse directed at black England players after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the victims of online attacks after failing to convert spot-kicks against Italy at Wembley in July.

Ferdinand was giving evidence to a parliamentary committee seeking views on the British government’s draft Online Safety Bill.

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

“I expected (the abuse) to happen.”

He spoke about the terrible impact such abuse can have on individuals and their families.

“I’ve seen members of my family disintegrate at times, I’ve seen other sports stars’ family members taking it worse than the actual person who’s receiving the abuse,” he said.

Ferdinand, 42, felt too much of the onus to block abusers lay with the victims.

And he said it was “baffling” that social media companies could act so quickly on issues around copyright but could not be so proactive on discrimination.

He cited what he felt were the lack of consequences for online abuse, compared with in-person acts.

Someone would be identified and punished for throwing a banana onto the pitch he said. But he added: “Online you can post a banana (emoji) and be fine. There are no repercussions. How can that be right?”

Ferdinand’s brother, Anton, also a retired footballer, told lawmakers on a different committee on Wednesday that social media companies needed to act immediately to end racial abuse, saying he feared a footballer or family member could take their own life.

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