On Sunday, Manchester City and England winger Raheem Sterling took to Instagram to explain how certain media coverage "fuels racism", but Sun football journalist Neil Custis believes it is "just stories."
Police are investigating allegations that Sterling was racially abused during Manchester City's defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening. The 24-year-old then penned a long open letter asking certain media outlets to "give all players an equal chance."
Buys expensive things = lavish, extravagant, extreme.
Buys cheap things = cheapskate
This is the absolute pits of journalism, whipping up a faux controversy about how a young, black sportsperson spends his money. pic.twitter.com/4pRgQSEvnJ
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) March 4, 2018
He pointed out how certain stories were framed positively around young, white players but negatively with black players. Sterling's point was that coverage can, even unconsciously, can often fuel racist human behaviour. He asked media to "have a second thought."
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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.
Speaking to TalkSport, Sun journalist Neil Custis responded to Sterling's declaration. He initially praised the winger's ability.
"Raheem Sterling, for me, is a brilliant example of a player who has worked so hard at his trade to get to where he is."
However, he went on to claim "It is wrong to say if you are having a go at a certain player it is racist."
It is just stories about footballers. That's what it is. It’s not about colour or race or anything like that. It’s just stories about footballers. Look at the stories about Wayne Rooney over the years. Right? Hundreds, thousands of them about his lifestyle, his family, having a wee in an alleyway after a party or something like that.
These are high-profile figures, footballers. Wayne Rooney has had thousands of stories written about him. David Beckham had thousands of stories written about him. It is about footballers. It’s about superstars. It’s about high-profile people.
The newspaper doesn’t look at it and say one’s black, one’s white, let’s consider how we’re going to do it. It’s just not like that.
Custis did not address Sterling's point about how the stories themselves are worded. There is ample evidence of how these stories are framed differently. Unfairly negative coverage can eventually embolden racist rhetoric.
Elsewhere, Sunday Times journalist Jonathan Northcroft took a different approach and pointed out how it is established, systematic offending by the media that manifests itself in the abuse Sterling has suffered in the past.
Huge respect to @sterling7 for confronting this head on. The coverage he points to is institutional racism in a nutshell and overt racism - eg abuse of black players at matches - is where that insidious path leads. Yes, papers and the wider media need to do a whole lot better. pic.twitter.com/R2KLgVGyP7
— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) December 9, 2018
Speaking on NBC, former Premier League player Robbie Earle also highlighted the language used in relation to Sterling.
"I've talked to lots of players back in England, current and ex-players, the majority of them black players and there is a feeling that Raheem Sterling gets racist connotations, racist criticism based that wouldn't be the same if he was a white player."