Friday, February 26News For London

Are some sections of the media fuelling racial discrimination in football?

After Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling highlighted headlines by the Mailonline as examples of racist rhetoric, many media commentators have come out to support the young footballer’s accusations.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday Chelsea Football Club made a public statement that they were investigating reports into alleged racial abuse against Raheem Sterling by Chelsea fans watching the weekend’s Premier League clash between Chelsea and Manchester City. A video circulating online after the game appeared to show one fan in the Matthew Harding Stand shouting racist slurs in the direction of Sterling as he went to collect the ball.

In response to the abuse, Sterling released a statement accusing some sections of the media of helping to ‘fuel racism’ with their portrayal of young black footballers. In an Instagram post Sterling singled out two recent headlines from the Mailonline to reflect this.


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Good morning I just want to say , I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to heard I will speak up. Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better. For example you have two young players starting out there careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing. Which is buy a new house for there mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the news papers get there message across for the young black player and then for the young white payer. I think this in unacceptable both innocent have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers 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 an give all players an equal chance.

A post shared by Raheem Sterling x 😇 (@sterling7) on

He cites articles about Manchester City teammates Tosin Adarabioyo and Phil Foden buying expensive properties at a young age. Foden, a white footballer, is portrayed as a nice son doing something for his mother. Whereas Adarabioyo, a black footballer, is made out to be stupid and greedy, particularly considering he is “yet to start a premier league game”.

Since Sterling’s post, many people have joined the footballer in denouncing the media’s compliance in fuelling racism in the UK. Sports broadcaster Stan Collymore tweeted:

“If you’re stupid or ignorant you won’t see the subtlety in the comparison. One narrative perpetuates the myth of the reckless black wastrel, undeserving of reward. One points to the lovely brylcreem white boy, lovingly looking after his Mum. Racism. Lapped up in 2018 Britain.”

Professional footballer Eni Aluko, responded in a tweet to TV Broadcaster Piers Morgan: “You are the problem. You fail to see because you choose not to and perpetuate such ignorance through your journalism. The good news is the likes of you will never prevent the undeniable success of the black players you choose to disrespect. We shine regardless.”

Sterling garnered the support today of the the PFA (Professional Footballer’s Association), who have said they are aware of the media’s portrayal of the 24-year-old, condemning the negative press coverage that “emboldens racist rhetoric”. They have called for the imbalance in coverage of white footballers compared to young black players needs to end:

“We stand with him in calling for the press to consider the coverage of all footballers carefully, and to end their imbalanced coverage aimed at young, black players.”

On the other hand, Antony Joseph, the writer of the two articles in question, has defended his editorial. He argues that in the context of when it was written – around the same time BT aired a documentary on the earnings of teenage footballers – it was an appropriate headline. In reference to the article on Adarabioyo, Joseph has said:

“The story was done in January at a time when BT aired a documentary on teenage footballers who are earning millions. It was topical and there was a huge debate about it. The same day there was at least an hour segment about the same issue on Talksport. The original story, which I followed up, appeared in the Sun.”

Joseph praised Sterling for raising some very valid points about the media’s treatment of young footballers but claims “he spoke to the player’s agent, who had no issue with the story at the time and how it was represented” and insists he did make the connection of colour – “it didn’t even cross my mind”.

The abuse against Raheem Sterling is the last in a string of recent incidents of racial discrimination. Last week, a man was charged after a banana skin was thrown on to the pitch during Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Tottenham at Emirates Stadium. Meanwhile, police in Scotland arrested two fans for allegedly directing racial abuse at Motherwell substitute Christian Mbulu during his side’s defeat at Hearts on Saturday.