Paul Ince says it is imperative there is no complacency in football's fight against racism.
Ince was speaking in the wake of the incident which saw Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police launch investigations into alleged racist abuse towards Manchester City's Raheem Sterling in last Saturday's match at Stamford Bridge.
Former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Liverpool midfielder Ince was the first black captain of England's men's team and experienced racism when playing in Italy.
“I'm sure the person or people who shouted abuse will be dealt with in the right way,” Ince said.
“Sometimes I don't want to talk about it because I'm giving them too much respect and they don't deserve it. We can talk about it, but maybe we need to do a lot more about it.
“When we get complacent, thinking we've dealt with it, we now see that it's still there.
“We've all made big strides to get rid of racism in our sport. Everyone deserves a pat on the back for that. But you're not going to eradicate all of it.
“If someone wants to shout some racial abuse at Raheem Sterling, no-one's going to be able to stop it. It's what we do after that that makes a bigger impact.”
Chelsea on Monday announced that they had suspended four of their supporters “pending further investigations” into the incident, adding that they will support any criminal prosecutions if there was racist abuse.
Television footage showed a group of home supporters screaming abuse – some of which is alleged to be racist in nature – at Sterling as he retrieved the ball from behind the byline.
Sterling on Sunday accused elements of the British press of helping to “fuel racism” by their portrayal of young, black footballers.
And former Manchester United defender Gary Neville on Monday night revealed that Sterling had confided in him in 2016 about being singled out negatively by the media and fans.
Ince was also a target for supporters, particularly West Ham fans angered by his 1989 move to Manchester United.
But Ince reckons Sterling's performances for England and Manchester City in 2018 have contributed to a change in perceptions.
“Players get criticised by fans,” he added. “I'm sure he can deal with that.
“When it becomes racist, that's a different kettle of fish and that's when we all have to stand up and make sure we deal with the people who do these things.
“Raheem reacted very, very well. It would be easy to retaliate to that type of remark. For him to keep his head was absolutely fantastic. He was outstanding on Saturday.
“He's young, but he's experienced enough to deal with it and move forwards.”
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