Maro Itoje claims he would not take his children to football games after witnessing the ‘disgraceful’ behaviour of Arsenal fans towards former boss Arsene Wenger.
The Saracens lock also took aim at the media for their coverage of black players and praised Raheem Sterling for standing up to abuse this season.
A member of Harrow School, Itoje played football alongside rugby as a youngster and used to go to watch the Gunners.
But the 24-year-old was so appalled by the etiquette of the supporters, he has admitted it would be hard to take his children to watch a game in the future.
“I was taken aback by the way the fans behaved, towards each other, towards the players,” Itoje said.
“If I had children, unless I had a box I would not take my child because the behaviour was disgraceful. I saw little kids, 12-year-olds, watching their parents swearing, abusing Arsene Wenger, abusing the players.
“This small boy sees his father do it and so he does it, starts spouting abuse at players, at opposing fans. Horrible.”
This season has seen several incidents of racist behaviour at home and abroad in football, with Sterling finding himself involved twice.
The England forward stuck his fingers in his ears in an act of defiance against racist Montenegro supporters and was widely praised for his actions.
But former European Player of the Year Itoje believes the root cause is much closer to home.
He added: “This is not just about sport. This covers how black people are portrayed in any kind of news, there is always a difference.
“When they report a murder of a white male, it’s a teenage boy from a loving family in the suburbs, brutally murdered. When it’s a black boy murdered, he was ‘wearing a hoodie’.
“It’s the same in punditry – a lot of the time when they describe black players they talk about athleticism, their power, their speed. They don’t talk so much about their skill, their deft touch.”
Itoje says he encountered no racism while studying at Harrow and had ‘not really’ experienced it on or off the pitch as a player, but he has caveats.
“My experience is not the typical experience of a black man in London because sport is one of the few disciplines or institutions based on merit – (it) should be anyway.”
And, though he ‘can’t easily recall’ direct racism from opposing fans, he added: “Racial abuse on the field I have not personally had but I have friends who have, in county rugby growing up.
“I know someone who was abused racially in the Under-20s World Cup, so that problem is not fully stamped out.”
Asked if he would ever consider walking off the field of play if he did encounter the kind of abuse Sterling had, Itoje said: “I am caught between two minds – nobody should be made to play in front of abusive fans.
“But I am also thinking one, show them; and two, do they win if you walk off?”
Itoje was speaking in a candid podcast interview with Alastair Campbell, the ex-Downing Street Press Secretary, and his daughter Grace, a comedian and activist.
The podcast, titled ‘Football, Feminism and Everything in Between’, is available on Wednesday.