Raheem Sterling abuse by fan should be laid at Chelsea’s door too – not just the media
- History of incidents involving Chelsea fans and racist abuse
- Club stood by John Terry for allegedly saying same thing
With British newspapers The Sun and the Daily Mail copping all the flak for Raheem Sterling being subjected to vile abuse by some Chelsea fans, the English Premier League club must be breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Chelsea have been let off the hook, big time, after one of their supporters appeared to call England star Sterling a “f****** black c***” during a Premier League match against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge earlier this month.
The supporter, from Beckenham in south London, claims he said “Manc” – British slang for someone from Manchester – and not black, even though Sterling grew up in Wembley and was born in Jamaica.
Chelsea suspended him and three other fans filmed screaming at the 24-year-old forward, and said they will support any criminal prosecutions. No arrests were made but the Metropolitan Police said it would review video footage to see if any racist abuse took place.
Sterling responded by calling out the Daily Mail for publishing stories with contrasting headlines concerning two of his young City teammates, Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo.
“Foden buys new £2m home for his mum” said one headline, while the other said “Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week splashes out on mansion on market for £2.25 million despite having never started a Premier League match”.
“You have two young players starting out their careers – both play for the same team, both have done the right thing, which is buy a new house for their mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are,” wrote Sterling on Instagram.
“But look at how the newspapers get their message across for the young black player and then for the young white player. I think this is unacceptable, both innocent, have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded.
“The young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an[d] aggressive behaviour. So for all the newspapers 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[d] give all players an equal chance.”
The Sun was accused of similarly portraying Sterling in a negative light earlier in the summer, after publishing several stories criticising him for getting a tattoo of an M16 assault rifle on his leg before the World Cup. Sterling said he was paying tribute to his father, who was shot dead in Jamaica when he was a child.
“Let’s get something straight. The racist abuse of Raheem Sterling at Chelsea is not somehow The Sun’s fault,” the newspaper said this week.
“We hope those allegedly responsible get what they deserve. We hugely admire Sterling’s talent. Our coverage of his off-field behaviour has nothing to do with skin colour.
“The suggestion is ridiculous and offensive – and the idea it inspired racists is baseless. His media mates should engage their brains before dishing out accusations without a shred of evidence.”
But were stories like this the reason the Chelsea supporter screamed hateful abuse at Sterling? I’m no fan of The Sun nor the Daily Mail and their stories scrutinising footballers’ personal lives, but Chelsea’s history of incidents involving racist fans is being ignored.
In January 2017, four Chelsea supporters were given suspended prison sentences and ordered to pay €10,000 to a black commuter they pushed off a train on the Paris Metro system in February 2015 before a Champions League match at Paris Saint-Germain.
The fans were convicted of racist violence against Souleymane Sylla, who had been trying to get home when he was repeatedly pushed out of the carriage while chants of “we’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it” were heard in footage filmed by someone on the platform.
Three fans were banned from attending matches at home and abroad for five years, while another was banned for three years.
In light of Chelsea fans singing an anti-Semitic chant about Tottenham supporters last season, the West London club announced in October they will offer supporters caught being anti-Semitic the chance to attend education courses at Auschwitz, a second world war concentration camp in Poland, instead of being banned from attending matches.
“If you just ban people, you will never change their behaviour,” Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck told The Sun. “This policy gives them the chance to realise what they have done, to make them want to behave better.
“In the past we would take them from the crowd and ban them, for up to three years. Now we say: ‘You did something wrong. You have the option. We can ban you or you can spend some time with our diversity officers, understanding what you did wrong’.”
Back in December 2012, charges were dropped against a Chelsea fan who made a “monkey gesture” at then-Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck during a match at Stamford Bridge.
The fan was arrested after a photograph emerged of him raising his hands to his armpits during the League Cup match earlier that season.
England’s Crown Prosecution service said there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.
While Chelsea have fully cooperated with investigations into these incidents, their response to another incident involving their former club captain, John Terry, left a lot to be desired.
Former Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand accused Terry of calling him a “f****** black c***” – the same insult the Chelsea fan is claimed to have said to Sterling – during a match in 2011.
Terry was caught appearing to mouth those words on camera, but claimed he was asking Ferdinand whether he thought he had called him that.
Terry was found not guilty of racial abuse in court after an off-duty policeman who witnessed the incident on television made a complaint. But the Football Association banned him for four matches and fined him £220,000.
Chelsea could have taken a stand – perhaps suspended Terry from playing duties until his trial was over. Instead the club and their fans backed the man they deigned their “Captain, Leader, Legend” to the hilt.
For years after the incident, supporters directed thunderous boos and venomous vitriol at Ferdinand and his brother, Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United, whenever either of them stepped foot on to the Stamford Bridge turf.
So if Chelsea aren’t going to suspend one of their employees – just because he is good at football – who seemingly calling some a “f****** black c***”, then why should we only demonise sports journalists when a Chelsea fan says the same thing to another black footballer?
The whole Terry incident was a stain on Chelsea’s reputation, so they should take some of the responsibility here.
And if you’re looking to blame the newspapers, try the front pages of those two Rupert Murdoch-owned publications, which have stoked up fear of – and resentment towards – immigrants and minorities, while wrestling Britain down into the mud with the current chaos and divided mess that is Brexit.