Raheem Sterling is one of the United Kingdom’s Premier League’s brightest young stars of football (known as soccer in the United States). At just 23 years old, Sterling is currently a player for Manchester City as well as England’s national team.
In 2014, he received the Golden Boy award from a pan-European panel of sports journalists who recognized him as the best under-21 player Europe, but his time as a media darling seems to have come to a halt following his recent performance in the England vs Russia match during the World Cup.
Despite stellar performances from Sterling, he was consistently voted one of his country’s worst performers on the BBC’s player rating app and received a barrage of hostility on social media. Since then, the media appears to have jumped on the bandwaggon, seeking any reason to publicly admonish the talented player.
Sterling has been blasted by the media for flying with budget airline Easyjet, buying batteries in Poundland and buying clothes in retail store Primark. He has even been criticized for proposing to his long-time girlfriend and mother of his child. He has also received backlash for eating breakfast after a night out.
This kind of racism appears quite common in the UK. So much so that in 1993, British Parliamentarian Lord Herman Ousley set up a project “Kick It Out” to tackle racism in the game and make football/soccer more inclusive and free from discrimination and abuse.
“There are the constant references to Raheem’s Jamaican background and childhood that stick in the throat–as if that in itself is a sign of a poor character,” Ousley wrote in his weekly column for The Voice. “It makes you wonder if he’ll be English when things are going well and Jamaican when they aren’t. There are the references to “bling” too -he was even crowned the “King of Bling” in one tabloid.”
Former professional football player Ian Wright also spoke out against the media’s covert agenda.
“The football criticism is something every player has to deal with, but what [Raheem] gets I don’t see any other footballer getting,” said Wright on BBC Radio 5 live’s Monday Night Club. “They don’t get that stick because for whatever reason they don’t rub up to the people in the corridors of power the wrong way. I think there is an agenda against him.
“There is an element of people at the high end of the media who want to keep that guy down. Simple. When you look at the wave of criticism that he takes, there is a certain amount of racism towards it – what else can it be?”