Footballer Rio Ferdinand recalls talking to children about racist emojis after abuse

"I have to sit there and have breakfast with my kids and explain to them what the monkey emoji means" - Rio Ferdinand gives evidence.

Former Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand has been sharing his experiences of online racist abuse as part of government talks to tackle the problem.

The leading TV pundit says he has had to explain to his children what the monkey emoji means in relation to black players.

The ex-footballer was invited to give evidence at a joint committee of MPs and peers seeking views on how to strengthen the draft Online Safety Bill - a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online.

Rio spoke openly about how the abuse faced by online trolls can be harmful for individuals and their families.

"When you sit at home and you look on there and there's negative discrimination and prominent for you to see, self-esteem and your mental health is at risk," he said.

"And again, it's not just about that person, it's the wider network of that person and what it does to family and friends.

"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."

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all received racist abuse online after missing penalities. Credit: PA

The 42-year-old told the committee: "I have to sit there and have breakfast with my kids and explain to them what the monkey emoji means in that context, what the banana means. 'Why is there a banana under your (social media) post? What's that about?'"

Ferdinand hit out at social media companies, saying it is "baffling" that they could act so quickly on issues around copyright but could not be so proactive on discrimination.

It comes the same week a football fan admitted posting racist comments on social media blaming black players for England's loss in the final of Euro 2020.

Ferdinand said it was inevitability that England trio Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho would be abused.

He said: "When those three players missed those penalties, the first thing I thought was 'let's see what happens on social media'. I expected (the abuse) to happen."

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

He said someone would be identified and punished for throwing a banana onto the pitch, but added: "Online you can post a banana (emoji) and be fine. There are no repercussions. How can that be right?"