‘Be proud of who you are’: Rio Ferdinand reveals gay Premier League player was advised against ‘coming out’ by lawyer
Ferdinand has given evidence to a joint committee of UK politicians discussing the proposed Online Safety Bill which is being pushed as a means to minimize the abuse and online hate which has become prevalent on social media.
The former Manchester United player was discussing the scourge of online racist abuse which has generated numerous headlines in recent months – in particular after a trio of young black England internationals, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, were targeted by trolls in the wake of England's defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020 this summer.
The debate, though, soon turned to homophobia and Ferdinand detailed the story of an anonymous footballer who came to Ferdinand for advice about 'coming out' as a gay man – but said that ultimately the player in question was persuaded not to do so by his lawyer, who feared that the inevitable abuse he would receive online would be too much to handle.
"I initially said 'you need to come out and speak your truth and be proud of who you are'," explained Ferdinand.
"The reason why the lawyer advised him not to come out is because every individual is very different and you can't use a blanket approach.
"(The lawyer) advised him based on his experience with that individual, and he didn't think that he was strong enough mentally at that time and would have the right pieces in place to be able to withstand the media attention and the spotlight."
As of now there are no openly gay players competing in the Premier League. Former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger revealed that he was gay several years after leaving the league, while United States international Robbie Rogers, who spent time on the roster of Leeds United several years ago, also declared his homosexuality in recent years.
This also comes after a gay Premier League player wrote an open letter last year to state that he currently doesn't feel comfortable to reveal his sexuality in the English game as it stands.
Elaborating further, Ferdinand said that the media spotlight on English football doesn't allow for a comfortable environment for a player to come out – compared to other sports with openly-gay athletes.
"The amount of eyeballs and the amount of attention and press pages that they're going to get extra is so much more," he said.
"It's about, 'are you capable of coming out and being able to withstand that media attention?'"Also on rt.com Man charged with racial abuse after aiming ‘monkey chant’ at ex-Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand also references the ongoing problem with racism which seems to have festered on social media in recent months, and referenced the situation involving Rashford, Sancho and Saka.
"When those three black players for England missed those penalties, the first thing I thought was 'let's see what happens on social media' – and I expected what happened to happen," Ferdinand explained.
"That's the disappointing thing. When that is your mindset immediately after a black player, who is representing the country, who is doing great things, makes... not a mistake, but they miss a penalty.
"Then they have to sit there and go through the abuse in the coming days via social media. It's totally disheartening."Also on rt.com World Cup winner Jerome Boateng convicted of assaulting ex-girlfriend, fined more than $2MN – report