England footballer Raheem Sterling has sparked outrage with his new gun tattoo
England footballer Raheem Sterling has been forced to defend his new tattoo of an assault rifle on his leg after anti-gun campaigners branded it ‘sick’.
Critics slammed the £170,000-a-week Manchester City star after he displayed the new inking during training for this summer’s World Cup yesterday.
The new design of an M16 assault rifle – which Sterling claims is a tribute to his late father – was shared with his 3.6million Instagram followers – many of whom are young fans.
The 23-year-old insists it reflects a vow he made to ‘never touch a gun’ after his father was shot dead in Kingston, Jamaica, when he was just a two-year-old boy.
But activists have described the artwork as ‘an absolute disgrace’ and since called for the 23-year-old to be dropped from England’s World Cup squad.
Lucy Cope, of Mothers Against Guns, said it was ‘sickening’ that he was showing off the inking to his followers.
She 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.’
The 63-year-old added: ‘If he refuses he should be dropped from the England team. He’s supposed to be a role model but chooses to glamorise guns.’
It comes amid outrage over gun and knife crime in London, where Sterling grew up, with Scotland Yard probing 66 murders in the capital this year.
Iffat Rizvi, of the Starr anti-gun campaign, said: ‘This is disrespectful to young people who lost their lives. How can he do this in the current climate of gang violence?’
Raheem Sterling shows off his recently acquired tattoo of an assault rifle on his right leg
Sterling felt the need to justify his gun tattoo after being criticised for promoting violence
But Sterling, who got the tattoo on his right leg in March, has defended the inking as a tribute to father who was shot dead when he was a child.
He wrote on Instagram: ‘When I was two, my father died from being gunned down to death. I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my lifetime.
‘I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning and is still unfinished.’
Sterling was pictured with the tattoo while training with England at St George’s Park in Staffordshire yesterday ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
DailyMail.com US Editor-at-Large Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘I happen to like Raheem Sterling and think he’s a great footballer.
The gun is the latest in several tattoos inked on the Manchester City winger’s body
‘But he does a lot of dumb things that inevitably attract media interest – like tattooing an assault rifle onto his leg before a World Cup.’
However, Henry Winter, chief football writer for The Times, said that Sterling’s tattoo was ‘ill-advised, but few have been through what Sterling has’.
BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey tweeted: ‘Every major tournament it feels something is done to rock the England boat, to damage players morale… then we wonder why they struggle.’
And BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker praised Sterling as ‘a terrific footballer with a brilliant work ethic’, adding: ‘This persecution is disgusting.’
DailyMail.com US Editor-at-Large Piers Morgan, Henry Winter from The Times and BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker have all had their say on the controversy
The striking tattoo is one of a number of body artworks Sterling has to record both his humble origins and his ambition as a footballer.
He grew up on a tough estate next to Wembley Stadium in London, and his left arm features both a picture of the venue and the logo for the local Tube station.
Inked on his biceps are the words: ‘Thank you mama for the nine months you carried me, through all the pain and suffering.’
This tattoo was made in tribute to his mother Nadine, who brought him up single-handed when they moved to Britain from Jamaica.
Sterling trains with his England team mates at St George’s Park on Monday morning
At the top of his arm he has the name and an image of the face of his daughter, Melody Rose, who was born in 2012.
In February, Sterling hit the headlines after buying his beloved sister Kima-lee a house in London for her 27th birthday.
Two years prior, in June 2016, Sterling showed off a mansion that he bought for his mother just hours after he had arrived back in Britain following England’s disastrous performance at Euro 2016 which saw them knocked out by Iceland.
He was seen smiling as he took a group of friends on a private tour of the luxury home near London. He later showed off an extravagant bathroom, complete with a matching silver toilet and a glittering jewel-encrusted sink.
Sterling has proved to be a top gun with his right foot this season, with 23 goals for City
Sterling famously dubbed himself ‘The Hated One’ after he was blasted by fans following a poor performance for England in a 1-1 draw with Russia at Euro 2016.
But he has scored 44 goals in 114 appearances for Manchester City since he joined for £50million in July 2015, with 23 of those strikes in the past season.
England will be hoping Sterling is on target this summer, with the footballer set to play a key role in their bid for glory at the World Cup.
Certainly, Sterling is ready to take aim at opponents Tunisia, Panama and Belgium in Group G in Russia after a superb season for City.
Sterling scored 23 goals and assisted a further 17 in 46 club matches, as City won the Premier League, setting a new team scoring record in the process of being the first English top flight side to reach 100 points.