Football journalists have supported England player Raheem Sterling’s claim that the media “fuels racism” after he faced alleged abuse during a match on Saturday.
Manchester City forward Sterling was the target of alleged racist abuse during the first half of the side’s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea FC and police are now investigating the incident.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Sterling used two screenshots, one of a Daily Mail story and one of a Mail Online story, to illustrate his claim that the press treated black footballers unfairly compared to their white peers.
He said: “The young black kid is looked at in a bad light, which helps fuel racism, an aggressive behaviour.
“So for all the newspapers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age, all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity, and give all players an equal chance.”
In a column for The Times, chief football writer Henry Winter supported Sterling, arguing that “inaccurate criticism” and “relentless targeting” had created a “toxic climate”.
He added that media portrayals of Sterling as a “wayward blind kid” were a “complete lie” and criticised outlets for publishing “breathless pieces dripping with sanctimony about his new house being close to a dogging site, ignoring the fact that some well-known [white] neighbours live closer”.
A story by former Mail Online reporter Anthony Joseph was among those shared by Sterling. He said Sterling had raised “some very valid points” that the media “needed to listen to”.
Defending his own story, Joseph said: “The story was done at a time when BT had a documentary on teenage footballers earning millions.
“It was topical and there was a huge debate about it. The same day there was at least an hour segment about it on Talksport. The original story, which I followed up, appeared in The Sun.
“I spoke to the player’s agent, who had no issue with story and how it was represented. Reporters don’t do headlines, but I still don’t feel it vilifies him. It was just topical at the time, nor did I even make a connection of his colour – it didn’t even cross my mind.”
Joseph added that Sterling raised “some very valid points” that the media “needed to listen to”.
In a comment piece for The Guardian, broadcaster and former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore praised Sterling’s statement this Sunday and weighed in on tabloid coverage of BAME sports personalities.
He wrote: “Sterling has, of course, experienced [media racism] first-hand – the stories about his expensive sink and his Easy Jet flight, lazy tabloid tales told by lazy tabloid journalists, painting him out to be a villain, the black kid riding around in a hoodie ready to knife you and your family at any given moment – and he’s finally had enough.”
Press Gazette has contacted Mail Online and the Daily Mail for responses to the post.
Picture: Reuters/Darren Staples