We did not want to sit down and write about this again. It fills us with no glee, but for as long as The Sun persist with their persecution, Mediawatch will also persist with a defence. They double down; we double down. It’s just a shame that their readership dwarfs ours.
After Tuesday, we hoped that The Sun would quietly retreat from Raheem Sterling. After all, their despicable front page was followed by a) an explanation from Sterling himself, b) widespread condemnation and c) a statement from the FA backing Sterling. But for the very last time, we overestimated The Sun.
Instead of backing away, they have gone again. And this time they are armed against accusations of racism with a black man. That black man is the father of murdered ten-year-old Damilola Taylor, who was killed 18 years ago. Taylor was murdered not by gun but by stabbing, but that really quite relevant detail is oddly missing from The Sun’s report.
We are told that Taylor ‘was killed in a street attack’, that he ‘died a victim of street violence’ and that ‘he bled to death after being attacked’. They leave you to join the dots and the inevitable drawing that emerges for the ignorant is that his death is somehow relevant to Sterling’s decision to have a gun tattooed on his leg to commemorate his father. It is not. Of slightly more relevance would be Jordan Pickford’s tattoo of a dagger.
Once again, The Sun have asked for comment from a grieving parent and it looks very much like they have failed to give them the full story. The first quote from Richard Taylor on the front page is this: “I am totally against Sterling’s decision to glamorise guns.”
Had he read Sterling’s own words, he would have known that he has not ‘made a decision to glamorise guns’; he has made a decision to mark the death of his father by gunshot. Now we can all question why anybody would have a tattoo of the gun that shot your father, but that is a decision made by Sterling about his own body; it’s really nobody’s business but his own.
“He must apologise to the families of gun victims,” continues Taylor, leaving us with the curious mental image of Sterling apologising to himself. Perhaps he could send himself flowers; at least he would know what he likes.
A double-page spread follows inside the newspaper and you will not be surprised to learn that it takes 20 paragraphs for writer Alex Diaz to mention Sterling’s own statement and 30 paragraphs for him to quote the FA’s statement. Why give credence to the defence when the prosecution from the families of murdered children is so damning?
Worse still – if that were possible – is the story that accompanies these quotes from Richard Taylor and others, headlined ‘MURDER RIDDLE’.
It begins: ‘THE murder of Raheem Sterling’s father is shrouded in mystery – like the man himself.’
Translation: Are we sure this really happened? Because, well, we only have his word for it…
Elsewhere on The Sun network, the website tells us that ‘a string of high-profile sports stars have criticised the Man City ace’, answering the age-old question of ‘how long is a piece of string?’ with the words ‘Harry Redknapp and Frank Bruno’. Does a former football manager and a former boxer constitute ‘a string of high-profile stars’? It does when you are trying to prove a point and no bugger else is on your side but Piers Morgan.
And then there’s the updated SEO-rich story on Sterling, designed to capture curious people on Google. Now Mediawatch has Googled ‘Raheem Sterling’ many times, double-checking his goals record, his England caps or the number of trophies in his cabinet. Clearly, Mediawatch is not like other people. Here is the headline on The Sun’s ‘piece’:
‘When did Raheem Sterling’s dad die, how many children does Man City star have and who is his fiancee Paige Milian?’
What else could you possibly want to know about a footballer?
Away from The Sun, Martin Samuel has written a largely sympathetic piece in the Daily Mail, though he does include this line: ‘Shorn of context, it is merely a portrait of a gun – and Sterling’s grin in the photograph he released displaying it does not suggest an air of great solemnity.’
He did not ‘release’ a picture ‘displaying’ his tattoo; he posted a picture on Instagram in which he just happened to be wearing short socks; he perhaps wishes he hadn’t now. He was grinning because he was training with England ahead of the World Cup and he was probably quite happy.
Elsewhere in the same newspaper Sterling is the ‘£200k-a-week England star who sums up all that’s wrong with football’. Apparently ‘England’s World Cup hopes rest, in part, on a player who, instead, has come to represent the moral decay of our national game’. Mediawatch is far more scandalised by all those commas than Sterling’s tattoo of a gun.
That Sterling evisceration – by Guy Adams (whose almost-parodic Twitter bio tells us: ‘I write features for the Daily Mail and sometimes blather on about cricket, fishing, real tennis, Welsh rugby, malt whisky’) is barely deserving of a mention, though it is worth noting that his last piece for the Daily Mail was headlined ‘Abortion civil war: GUY ADAMS asks if Ireland’s referendum could be the next big defeat for liberals after Brexit and Trump’. He did indeed ask and Ireland answered with a massive f*** you.
Finally, we come to what Mediawatch would like to believe is an honest mistake…
— Adam Keyworth (@adamkeyworth) May 29, 2018
…but it’s an honest mistake that’s a whole lot easier to make when other elements of the media are persistently telling you that a certain man is a disgrace.
Unfortunately, that’s how this sh*t works.
More from Planet Sport:
Johnny Nic on Johanna Konta turning on the media and dealing with tabloid press (Tennis365)
The perverse joy in Cristiano Ronaldo having no reason to take his shirt off (Planet Football)