by Aiden Daries
“Axe Sterling over gun tat”, “Tat’s gun too far”, “Raheem shoots himself in foot”. These are but a few newspaper headlines demoralising Manchester City star Raheem Sterling after getting an M16 gun tattooed on his leg.
The British media has done everything in their power to destroy black footballers; from what they do on the pitch to off it. Raheem Sterling has been the media’s new target man for the past few years but this has escalated ever since the England international had a gun inked just before the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament. Many media outlets called for Sterling to be dropped from the England team amidst the situation. Besides the racial chants that the Jamaican born star was receiving on the pitch, he had to endure racism off it as well, on social media.
Sterling explained the reason as to why he got a gun tattoo, but even after his explanation, Sky Sports distorted it by adding the word “again”. Sky reported Sterling saying, “I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun again in my lifetime”, when in fact Sterling never used the word “again”.
Other headlines from British media outlet The Sun, “From troubled youth to £100k a week – The life of footie idiot Raheem Sterling” and “Prem rat of the Caribbean”, show just how extensive racism is within British media.
Another incident occurred when the Daily Mail headlined one of their articles, “Young Manchester City, footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week splashes out on mansion on market for £2.25 million despite having never started a Premier League match”. Compare this to another one of their headlines titled, “Manchester City starlet Phil Foden buys new £2 million home for his mom”.
Two completely different headlines; one about a young black footballer, Tosin Adarabioyo who bought his mom a house, and the other about white footballer Phil Foden. Tosin was put in a bad light with reference to his headline, whereas his teammate was praised for buying his mom a house. The conservative media look to be adding flames to this already ongoing racism instead of counteracting this serious situation.
The conservative media seems to have found their new apparent scapegoat in the likes of teenage sensation, Mason Greenwood. Greenwood was sent home whilst on duty with England after earning his first call-up to the team after a video went viral of himself and teammate Phil Foden with a couple of women in their hotel room.
This was a breach of Covid-19 regulations and the pair were abruptly sent packing. Although both Greenwood and Foden were involved in the incident, it was Greenwood who was unfairly targeted by the media. Some going as far as to say that the youngster should not play for the Three Lions again.
Certain tabloids also dug up a video of Greenwood inhaling a dangerous gas which caused much controversy. He was in the wrong for committing these acts, but he is still young at 19 years of age. There is no point in digging into a young player, as they have done with both Sterling and Greenwood.
Social media sites are also at fault for this ongoing racism that is so rife in football these days. The number of racist tweets and comments that are being directed towards black players on social media sites are at an all-time high. A recent study conducted by a PFA Charity report revealed that 43% of Premier League players in the study experienced targeted and explicitly racist abuse, 29% of racially abusive posts came in emoji form and 50% of the total online abuse recorded was received by just three players, who called out racial abuse during Project Restart.
Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford bore the brunt of these last season after putting on a poor display in one of their games. The administrators of Twitter and Instagram need to be doing more with regards to this racism against footballers.
Whether it is finding ways to block certain accounts or comments or a different approach, something has to be done in order to stop this.
Organisations such as Kick It Out, which stand for removing racism in the game, are not doing enough themselves to actually kick it out. Besides wearing a t-shirt that is sponsoring their organisation and their message before a game, they need to be doing more to stop this ‘pandemic’ in the game. One major step which footballers could take is to engage in talks with Twitter and Instagram and find a way to block these racist comments. Although unlikely, it would certainly be a major step in eradicating racism in the game.
Footballers are not resistant to hate, they are still human and something needs to be done in order to protect them. The question of mental illness also comes into play as a result of this racist behaviour in the game.
The fact that the media tries to downplay these situations just shows the bigotry that exists in football in the time of social media. One thing is for sure though, there is definitely a narrative that the British conservatives media, in particular, have an agenda against black footballers.