Does Sterling’s Tattoo Carry A Deep Meaning or Send A Poor Message?

England forward, Raheem Sterling, has recently shared with the world his latest tattoo: an M16 assault rifle inked on his right leg.

The piece of artwork has caused controversy amongst anti-gun campaigners and the British media with many calling for the Manchester City forward to be dropped by Gareth Southgate unless he removes the tattoo.

Such controversy stems from the soaring crime rate in England, most notably in the capital, where the murder count for 2018 has already reached a staggering 67.

With roughly 15 million people in the UK watching each of England’s group games at the 2014 World Cup, there are fears that artwork projected on such a vast platform sends the wrong message and could encourage people towards crime when these images are being represented by idolised footballers like Raheem Sterling.

Sterling played a major role in Manchester City’s winning title campaign, with the forward scoring 18-league goals – Photo from Flickr

Sterling’s response

It has led to the 23-year-old to defend his tattoo. Sterling has released a statement arguing the rifle carries a deeper meaning which dates back to the murder of his father when Sterling was a two-year-old.

“When I was two my father died from being gunned down to death. I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my lifetime. I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning.” — Raheem Sterling

However, it appeared the British media had other ways of phrasing the Manchester City forward’s statement. Sky Sports allegedly edited Sterling’s message so that it red the Englishman, ‘would never touch a gun again in my lifetime.’

A suggestion that Sky believes the former Liverpool forward has previously taken up firearms and made to look like he has been involved in gun violence; another case of the British press targeting English players before a major tournament.

What are other media channels saying?

Red top newspapers have heavily criticised the Englishman with the Sun running headlines such as ‘Tatts Enough’ and ‘Raheem shoots himself in the foot’. Such rhetoric coming out of the press continues to fuel people calling for Sterling to be dropped from the national side unless he removes the tattoo.

The Sun also ran features with parents who have had lost children from gun crime. The paper interviewed Richard Taylor – the father of, Damilola, who lost his life aged 10 in London street violence; he commented, “I’m totally against Sterling’s decision to glamorise guns. Footballers need to be aware kids look up to them. He must apologise to the families of gun victims.”

The tabloid also featured Lucy Cope, The founder of Mothers Against Guns, who slammed Sterling’s decision to have the tattoo done: “This tattoo is disgusting. Raheem should hang his head in shame.”

Sterling has previously come under fire from the Sun for allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide – Photo from Flickr

Who is supporting Sterling?

Most importantly, to the Englishman himself anyway, is the FA have released a statement in support of the No.7. An FA Spokesperson commented: “We all support Sterling and acknowledge the honest and heartfelt account he gave.”

In addition to this, England legend and pundit, Gary Lineker, has thrown his support behind the 23-year-old by labeling the Sun’s response to the tattoo as “disgusting” and calling the Citizen forward “a terrific footballer with a brilliant work ethic”.

Other major newspapers have also leaped to defend the player with the Guardian running headlines such as – ‘Raheem Sterling is a victim of vicious tabloid snobbery’ – and the Telegraph continued this pattern with: ‘Spare us the moral outrage – Raheem Sterling is guilty of nothing more than expressing his own free will’.

What is to happen to the future of the tattoo is yet to be decided, the player himself has even said it is not complete, yet. But, it appears there is a strong support for Sterling’s message in an important part of the media world.

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