Raheem Sterling defends his gun tattoo after tabloid criticism

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Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has come under fire for a tattoo of a gun he displayed in an Instagram picture on Monday. Sterling, who will hopefully play a big role with England in the upcoming World Cup in Russia, defended the tattoo after a critical tabloid story, saying the tattoo has a “deeper meaning.”

How did people find out about Sterling’s tattoo?

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On Monday, Sterling posted a picture of himself on Instagram during training. The post wasn’t about his tattoo, but it was clearly visible in the picture.

The giant tattoo of an M16 on the side of his right calf is hard to miss.

Raheem Sterling’s gun tattoo is visible on his leg during an England training session at St Georges Park on May 28, 2018 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Getty Images)
Raheem Sterling’s gun tattoo is visible on his leg during an England training session at St Georges Park on May 28, 2018 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Getty Images)

A tabloid article stirred up controversy

On Monday, British tabloid The Sun published a story about Sterling’s tattoo, and the cover was a doozy.

In the article, The Sun spoke to Lucy Cope, the founder of Mothers Against Guns. She had a strong reaction to Sterling’s gun tattoo.

“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. He’s supposed to be a role model but chooses to glamorise guns.”

Piers Morgan and former boxer Frank Bruno also posted on Twitter about Sterling’s tattoo, and were featured by The Sun.

The Sun’s story contains plenty of comments from people who were angry about Sterling’s tattoo, but no comments from Raheem Sterling himself about the tattoo that was on his own body. (The story was later updated to add Sterling’s Instagram post, which was not a specific comment to The Sun.)

Sterling says the tattoo has “deeper meaning”

Since The Sun didn’t bother to contact Sterling and ask him to comment on his own tattoo, he took to Instagram on Monday and revealed why he decided to get a gun tattooed on his leg.

For Sterling, the gun tattoo is symbolic of his career as a footballer, but also of his promise to never touch a gun. It’s a remembrance of his father, who was killed in Jamaica when he was 2.

A tattoo of a gun is bound to be misunderstood, but in the end, it’s just a tattoo. Demanding that Sterling be dropped from the team unless he has the tattoo removed seems extreme. Tattoos are often very personal, and while the meaning behind a gun tattoo may appear to be obvious, Sterling’s tattoo means the exact opposite of what activists like Lucy Cope assumed it meant.

The Sun has a history of criticizing Sterling for no reason

Contacting Sterling to ask him about the tattoo would have cleared this up immediately, but The Sun has made a habit of criticizing Sterling for often ridiculous things.

That’s just a small sampling. The Sun clearly loves to come down on Sterling for such things like proposing to his girlfriend, not having time to wash his car and buying his mother a nice sink. Not swayed by The Sun, several journalists and even a former player tweeted their support of Sterling.

Sterling’s Instagram post mentions that the tattoo is still unfinished. If he ends up tattooing a large X over the gun, everyone will be changing their tune.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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