Raheem Sterling gun tattoo: media reactions to the body art controversy

England star says tattoo has a deeper meaning as anti-gun campaigners call for him to be dropped from the World Cup squad

Raheem Sterling gun tattoo England World Cup squad
England forward Raheem Sterling in training at St George’s Park yesterday
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images )

England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has responded to criticism over his controversial gun tattoo.

Yesterday the 23-year-old posted an Instagram image at an England training camp which revealed the M16 assault rifle body art on his right leg.

On its front page today, The Sun led with the headline “Raheem shoots himself in foot” and quoted an anti-gun campaigner calling for the forward to be dropped from the England World Cup squad.

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The Sun says Sterling has “triggered the fury” of anti-gun campaigners. Lucy Cope of Mothers Against Guns said the tattoo was “sickening” and “unacceptable”.

Cope, whose son Damian was shot dead in 2002, told the Sun: “This tattoo is disgusting. Raheem should hang his head in shame. It’s totally unacceptable. We demand he has the tattoo lasered off or covered up with a different tattoo. If he refuses he should be dropped from the England team.”

In response to the Sun’s front page story, Man City star Sterling said that the tattoo had a “deeper meaning” and was “still unfinished”.

He said on social media: “When I was 2 my father died from being gunned down to death I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my life time, I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning.”

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Media reaction to Sterling’s gun tattoo

Sterling’s tattoo and the Sun’s front page story have caused mixed reactions among football writers and pundits.

TV presenter Piers Morgan called for Sterling to remove the body art and tweeted: “Get that gun off his leg.” But many writers praised Sterling and said the England star was a role model.

The Daily Mirror’s John Cross believes that some papers go “too far” when writing about Sterling. Cross said: “I do feel that the coverage he gets in some papers is unfair and he almost seems to have become a focal point for some parts of the media.

“I don’t think the gun story should be causing such outrage. It’s utterly unfair. There is more to come with that tattoo. There is more to come with this story. But demonising our England stars even before the World Cup starts is hardly a good way to begin a campaign.”

Writing on Twitter, The Times’s Oliver Kay said the media should “give him a break”. “I like Raheem Sterling,” said Kay. “Talented, determined footballer, role model for a lot of kids, a great success story. A gun tattoo doesn’t look like his greatest idea ever (and yes I read his Instagram post, which was very sad), but who actually cares? It’s a tattoo. Give him a break.”

The Manchester Evening News says that “the real Raheem Sterling is very different from the public portrayal”. MEN’s Stuart Brennan writes: “He is portrayed as a vacuous, shallow, egotist with too much money, little sense and no morals. Those of us who have taken the time to meet him know that to be the opposite of the truth.”

The Daily Mail’s Sami Mokbel called Sterling an “engaging and thoughtful guy” but he is “misunderstood in certain ways”. Mokbel tweeted: “Opinions will vary, of course, but the tattoo isn’t an endorsement of gun culture. His Insta post verifies that. Let the kid breathe a bit.”

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