We’ve seen it countless times before and sadly this week, just 20 days from England’s first World Cup match, we’re experiencing it on its most aggressive, blazing-eyed scale yet.
You’ve seen the front page of England’s best read newspaper and it’s not for us to tell you how to feel about Sterling’s choice of tattoo. As a matter of fact, it’s not for them or anyone else to tell you how to feel about it.
Really, you don’t have to feel anything at all. It doesn’t affect you, them, or us in the slightest.
But, Raheem Sterling has explained and justified his decision with more clarity and dignity than the papers who’ve charged up the denigration machine, so that’s the matter settled.
Except the issue runs deeper than that. Sterling can’t simply explain his choice – his entirely personal decision – and assume that that’ll be the end of it. Once the British tabloids inject their venom into the veins of the public, symptoms begin to appear.
Symptoms for this particular venomous malady – the disease of the red-top’s vilification – include racist attacks on the 23-year-old, such as the one Karl Anderson was jailed for.
When we say hate and vitriol, contempt and venom, it’s not just for effect and it’s not just hyperbole: it’s real-life loathing perpetuated by immensely powerful media barons who will never suffer its consequences.
The sickening words that caused Anderson’s conviction derive from the sort of attacks delivered and targeted routinely and systematically at young men born in other countries by Britain’s most widely disseminated sources of bile.
It’s not just the tattoo story, of course. Perhaps the lad’s decision could be discussed by the more tasteless rags in a sidebar somewhere near the back of the paper without causing too much of an uproar. But this is front page stuff.
That story was deemed newsworthy enough to be broadcast across the country over an entire paper to a circulation of almost 1.5 million.
Evidently, no sane, highly educated editor actually views it as news, so there’s something else going on.
That something else becomes apparent when you take a look at previous stories run about Raheem Sterling.
Every move he makes is wrong, according to the hate-mongering army.
The man is being held up as a contemptible Satan incarnate for us to lambaste and chastise as the angry mob ever more every month.
Whilst the media can choose to target the likes of Karl Anderson, they seek instead to take fire at those whom people like him attack. They choose to vilify the Raheem Sterlings of this world.
It’s a sad state of affairs, one we football fans should try and unite to change. Be careful what you buy and be careful who you read. Be careful like Raheem Sterling has to be when walking the streets of the city he inhabits.
We wonder what offence he’ll have innocuously committed next week. Perhaps walking the street unassaulted will be justification in itself to launch a fresh attack.