Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling said he hopes to set an example for younger players as he received an award for his stance against racism in football.
The England forward has criticised newspapers’ portrayal of black players and wants stronger punishments for fans who racially abuse players.
He was honoured at the BT Sport Industry Awards on Thursday.
“When the next generation come through, you have to set the example,” the 24-year-old said.
“Coming through at Liverpool I had people around me like Steven Gerrard I looked up to. Looking at him I thought what can I do within myself to be half the person and player he was.
“You take little things and each year, try and develop not just on the field but off it.
“I was just speaking about my personal experiences, I didn’t expect it to get so much attention.
“I just wanted to bring it to the attention of my audience on Instagram. It’s been really pleasing to see people listening and trying and do better.”
England manager Gareth Southgate presented the award and said Sterling’s actions had made “a massive impact on British society”.
“I’ve worked with Raheem now for around five years and to have seen his maturity as a person has been lovely to watch,” said Southgate.
“This is about his own personal improvement, his improvement on the field and his recognition he can make a difference off the field. That has been increasingly powerful over the last six months and had a massive impact on British society I think.”
Sterling suffered allegedly racist abuse from Chelsea fans during City’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in December, prompting an Instagram post in which he questioned newspapers’ portrayal of black players.
In January, it was revealed he wrote a letter to a young City fan who was racially abused, urging the supporter “stand tall, don’t let them take away your courage”.
He was also racially abused during England’s European Championship qualifier in Montenegro in March, along with international team-mates Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Earlier in April he was hailed as “an iconic British sports star” and “a trailblazer” after being named sportsman of the year at the 2019 British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards.