Yesterday, Professor Brian Cathcart of Kingston University turned his attention to the case of Manchester City player Raheem Sterling, and the debate as to whether the press coverage he attracts is the result of low-level racism. His article for Byline Media, “Racism in the press: lessons of the Raheem Sterling case” makes one depressing conclusion.
And that is “Calls for change from within the press are welcome but will make no lasting difference”. As if to confirm this, the Murdoch Sun has this morning gone into full dismissal mode, devoting a portion of its editorial to the subject, which is significant, given the high priority the paper is giving to whining about Theresa May and her Brexit deal.
Under the heading “Race rubbish”, the Murdoch goons tell “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”.
And to that I call bullshit, with the first two exhibits being the Twitter oeuvre of former Screws and Daily Mirror Editor Piers Morgan, and the Sun’s own website. After Morgan had claimed “Real bravery would be for those who believe media coverage of black players is racist to name the journalists they believe are responsible for the ‘racism’”, he added “I’ve not seen a single story about Sterling that I could not imagine being written about Rooney, Gazza, Beckham”. Well, well. Now over to the Sun.
In an article headed “Gary Neville reveals Raheem Sterling sought his help over ‘vicious’ abuse during Euro 2016”, Neville tells “the abuse he received from fans and the media beyond that tournament was like I've never seen before … I’ve lived closely with Becks, Rooney and at Euro 96 with Gazza, but the nastiness is really there with Raheem”.
So much for the factual reliability of Piers Morgan, then. And the Sun’s low-level racism hasn’t gone unnoticed elsewhere, with Maurice Mcleod concluding “Whether it’s his choice of tattoo or the variation in his spending, the message to the England footballer is clear: know your place”. Football365 carried “Mediawatch special: Sterling, The Sun and racist attacks”, an article whose title speaks for itself.
Moreover, Edward Adoo at the Independent reminded us “Let's be honest: we wouldn't draw a natural connection between Raheem Sterling's tattoo and gang violence if he was white”. A connection to which the Sun devoted two front pages, and no apology.
And what was that comparison Sterling made between two young footballers, one black and the other white? Well, the white one is back in the Sun today. Under the gushing headline “PHIL OF DREAMS … Foden posts amazing throwback pictures after signing new £30k-a-week Man City contract until 2024”, the Manchester City youngster gets the full adulation treatment. While his black team-mate gets slagged off.
The more they pretend there isn’t any racism in their treatment of Raheem Sterling, the deeper they dig themselves. I’ll just leave that one there.
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