Football: Raheem Sterling Leg Tattoo Controversy

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

The new M16 assault rifle tattoo on the right calf of Raheem Sterling, the Manchester City and England National Team midfielder, which he revealed on 28 May at an England training session, has, perhaps not unexpectedly, provoked a mixed reaction in the press and on social media.

The British newspaper, ‘The Sun’, under the headline ‘Tat’s Gun Too Far’ has led the criticism from anti-gun campaigners, who have described the tattoo as “disgusting” “sick” and “totally unacceptable”.

There have also been calls for Sterling to be dropped from the England squad, unless he gets rid of it, arguing that the tattoo sends the wrong message to teenage football fans, as it “glamorises” guns.

The player has defended the tattoo in the following terms:

“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…”

Others have rallied to Sterling’s support, including the English TV ‘Match of the Day’ football presenter and former England player, Gary Lineker, who has ‘tweeted’:

“It’s weird. Leave him alone……Unique to this country to attempt to destroy our players morale before a major tournament. It’s weird, unpatriotic and sad.”

Whether the tattoo is in good taste or not is one question, but is there also not a question of “freedom of expression” in Sterling’s case, having regard to his father’s tragic shooting?

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’