Forget Sterling: The Mail and The Sun are the real victims

Matt Stead

Sterling work
One of the main messages Raheem Sterling wished to get across on Sunday was for newspapers and the wider media to ‘give a second thought’ on the coverage they ‘give all players’. He stated that certain prejudicial reporting – whether a result of conscious bias or not – ‘helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour’, using the Daily Mail as a specific example.

Their response on Monday was to insist that Sterling ‘incorrectly alleges the difference’ in their reporting of two particular stories ‘was racially motivated’. And on Tuesday, they are not backing down. Far from it.

Their back page leads on Chelsea suspending four fans for their abuse of Sterling in the most roundabout way possible. They use a picture of Watford striker Isaac Success, saying he ‘was subjected to aggressive behaviour by local supporters’ against Everton on Monday evening.

Good lord, there are dangerous implications everywhere.

Firstly, why not use a picture of Sterling if Sterling is the story? Mediawatch can only wonder why an image of Success in particular was used.

Secondly, you cannot possibly draw parallels between how Chelsea fans abused Sterling and how Everton supporters are apparently treating Success there. One of those instances has quite literally led to the suspension of four fans, and a police investigation into alleged racist abuse. The other is completely and utterly innocuous, reported on by just one outlet.

Thirdly, how can you compare these two pictures? Look at the vitriolic, deep-seated hatred on the faces of the Chelsea fans. The Everton supporters are appealing for handball; they’re barely even looking at Success.

Finally, it is just such a dangerous way of reporting on such an important story. This is a quite deliberate and wilful attempt to boil and every example of supporter passion down to one single level of abuse. In turn, it delegitimises the sort of genuine example that we saw on Saturday.

Next time, just listen to Sterling and ‘give a second thought’ before you send it to press. Please.


Hot Mail
The unattributed blurb is also just terrible. It reads:

‘On the day Chelsea suspended four fans for their abuse of England forward Raheem Sterling, these were the scenes at Goodison Park.

‘As Everton and Watford drew 2-2 last night, visiting forward Isaac Success was subjected to aggressive behaviour by local supporters.

‘A number of leading commentators, including Sportsmail’s Martin Samuel, have recently drawn attention to the abuse suffered by footballers.’

And in one fell swoop, the Daily Mail pitch themselves at the forefront of a battle they helped start. They completely ignore Sterling’s initial point about the misrepresentation of black footballers, and claim to have long shed a light on ‘the abuse suffered by footballers’.

It’s f***ing laughable.


Mail order
Just to drive the defence of their coverage home, the Daily Maihave managed to find three separate historic back pages where they praise black, English players.

There is one of Danny Welbeck from Euro 2012. There is one of Marcus Rashford from just before Euro 2016. And there is one of Welbeck again, this one from late 2014.

Because nothing says ‘look, we celebrate black footballers too!’ like back-page headlines from two, four and six years ago.


Sterling work
Still, all that is nothing compared to The Sun, who completely undermine Dave Kidd’s excellent introspective piece by painting themselves as the victims.

‘Let’s get something straight,’ reads the first paragraph to – again – an unattributed column.

‘The racist abuse of Raheem Sterling at Chelsea is not somehow The Sun’s fault. We hope those allegedly responsibly get what they deserve.’

‘We hugely admire Sterling’s talent. Our coverage of his off-field behaviour has nothing to do with his skin colour.’

That’s exactly the point: what ‘off-field behaviour’? Buying his mum a house? Going to Greggs? Getting a tattoo in memory of his late father?

‘The suggestion is ridiculous and offensive – and the idea it inspired racists is baseless.’

Yet it is one espoused by your own chief sports writer. Kidd largely defends The Sun’s stance on Tuesday but does add that ‘some newspaper coverage of Sterling and other black players feeds into the treatment he gets from supporters, some of whom may be aggressively racist’.

‘His media mates should engage their brains before dishing out accusations without a shred of evidence.’

Mediawatch dreads to think what they actually mean by ‘his media mates’. And as for ‘dishing out accusations without a shred of evidence’, weren’t you the ones who said Sterling had ‘flaunted his millionaire wealth‘ before clarifying whether it was actually his house or not? And wasn’t it you who called him a ‘footie idiot’ for no apparent reason?

Hell, wasn’t it you who used a non-existent journalist to lay into him for winning a penalty against Shakhtar earlier this season? You were so incensed that you changed the scoreline to reflect your anger, remember? It was really mature.

How’s that for a shred of f***ing evidence? Mediawatch finds it ‘ridiculous and offensive’ that you find criticism of your reporting on Sterling ‘ridiculous and offensive’. We thought we were the snowflakes.


Flash flood
It’s from July, but f***ing hell. Mediawatch has only just seen how Dean Saunders confused Alexandre Lacazette with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – while making a really stupid point – and that talkSPORT had to subsequently delete the clip after realising.


One last thing…
Ian Abrahams is a silly man