Raheem Sterling has explained how a toll of media criticism forced him to speak out over the coverage given to black players.
In December 2018, Manchester City and England forward Sterling drew attention to two articles published by the Daily Mail concerning his club team-mates Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo.
The pieces both reported on the then-teenagers buying houses worth £2million, although the headline declared Adarabioyo "splashes out on mansion... despite having never started a Premier League match".
England Under-21 international Foden, who was similarly yet to make his full top-flight debut at that stage, was portrayed comparatively fondly as a "starlet" who "buys new £2m home for his mum".
Sterling highlighted the contrast in an Instagram post where he claimed such media coverage "fuels racism" – a day on from himself receiving abuse while playing for City at Chelsea.
"As an individual I feel I can take a lot, I can receive criticism and handle it well. I kind of thrive off stuff like this, not racism but criticism," he explained in a webchat with USA star Megan Rapinoe on his YouTube channel, putting his post into the context of articles that targeted him as a young player
"I try to turn the negatives into positives. But when I started to get [criticism] about materialistic things that were being referred back to me and labelling me, that’s what upset me.
"I felt like it was a constant attack for no valid reason and there were times I was really, really low.
"I wouldn’t even say stuff to my mum or girlfriend. I'd take it in, keep moving, keep moving."
Wary of how such criticism impacted him, Sterling felt compelled to step in to defend Adarabioyo and others.
"I thought to myself, if I know how much it is affecting me, what would happen to a 17-year-old kid who's probably not as mentally strong as I was, where would their career end up or where would it lead to?" he said.
"I felt I had to say something because I was in a changing room with two young lads - same team, both trying their best and working their socks off, both want to be professional players at Manchester City, both wanting to do the right things for their families.
"The wording of two pretty similar stories – Phil looks like a good kid and Tosin looks like a money-oriented person. Not just us players, but the media too have a responsibility. It wasn't something I was looking for the credit for – it's just something I feel I truly believe is wrong."
Rapinoe praised Sterling for his "positive impact" and called on white players to take a similar stand in the fight against racism.
"Hopefully other players, especially white players, will see that even just saying it, lending support, retweeting something you said or saying something of their own, they can just help so much," said the reigning FIFA Best Women's Player.
"I think people feel overwhelmed, like, 'I don’t know what to do to help, I’ve got to start a huge charity', but you really don’t, you can just say something in support.
"You have this huge platform and the littlest thing can make such a difference. For kids who want to be Raheem Sterling when they grow up it’s not always the easiest road. It’s super brave you said that and you're standing up for that. I hope other players do as well."
Rapinoe has spoken out on a varied of social issues and, in 2016, leant her support to NFL player Colin Kaepernick and his protest against police brutality towards black people in the United States.