The Sun has dismissed claims that its coverage of England and Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling’s off-field activities has anything to do with his race.
In a leader column today, the tabloid argued that suggestions its coverage inspired alleged racist abuse towards the Manchester City player during a match against Chelsea on Saturday were “ridiculous and offensive”.
The Sun’s defence of its stories on Sterling comes two days after he claimed the media “fuels racism” following the alleged incident at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea FC and the Met Police are now investigating the incident.
Under the headline “Race Rubbish”, the Sun said: “Let’s get something straight.
“The racist abuse of Raheem Sterling at Chelsea is not somehow The Sun’s fault. We hope those allegedly responsible get what they deserve.
“We hugely admire Sterling’s talent. Our coverage of his off-field behaviour has nothing to do with skin colour.
“The suggestion is ridiculous and offensive — and the idea it inspired racists is baseless.
“His media mates should engage their brains before dishing out accusations without a shred of evidence.”
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.
He said: “Look at how the newspapers get their message across for the young black player and then for the young white player.
“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.”
Some journalists supported Sterling’s claim that the media was guilty of fuelling racism against BAME footballers.
In a column for The Times, chief football writer Henry Winter argued that “inaccurate criticism” and “relentless targeting” had created a “toxic climate”.
In a column for the Sun yesterday, chief sports writer Dave Kidd said the statement from Sterling made him “very uncomfortable on Sunday”, adding: “And I thank him for that”.
He wrote: “Sterling has asked us to spare ‘a second thought’ about giving fair publicity to black players and affording everyone an equal chance.
“I welcome that and, while I have thought about racism often in the past, I have considered the issue more deeply during the past day or so.
“I hope colleagues and rivals have done the same. I think they should.”