A happy, beautiful Instagram photo of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling's family has sparked racist reactions on social media from soccer fans, the latest sign of racism's pervasiveness around the English game still today.
The photo, as seen above, was posted on Sunday by Sterling with the caption, "Perfect Sunday's with my niece and my daughter." The day turned sour, however, when Instagram users began chiming in with hateful messages and racial slurs referencing Sterling's skin color.
One commenter, taking full advantage of the troubling veil of anonymity available on social media platforms, even wrote "f**k your stupid family hope they burn" on the photo's post, according to The Mirror.
Sterling's discriminatory online incident follows a disturbing trend across English soccer, where fans regularly use social media to direct hate speech at athletes. Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out counted 134,4000 instances of social media abuse aimed at players and clubs last season. In the 2014-15 season, black forwards Mario Balotelli, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge were subject to thousands of racist, sexist and homophobic posts, according to Kick It Out's report. Balotelli alone endured over 4,000 racist messages, the group said in March.
Reports of matchday discrimination are on the rise, and not only are black players inflicted with abuse, but black coaches are continuously shut out of English soccer's best jobs, which has prompted calls for a "Rooney Rule" in recent years. Black and minority coaches occupied 3.4 percent of top coaching jobs despite 25 percent of their players being of color, according to a November 2014 BBC report.
When Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor called racism a "hidden problem" in October 2014, FIFA anti-racism task force head Jeffrey Webb was more direct in his response:
I don’t know how it could be hidden. You have 92 clubs, you have two coaches of colour. How many board members or executives are in various club positions or at the FA, in Uefa? So, it’s not hidden. It’s hidden from a discussion standpoint. No-one wants to deal with it. No-one wants to deal with it from a commercial standpoint.
On social media, nothing is hidden. Many fans have since shouted down the racist abuse toward Sterling's Instagram, but this isn't the first time that the 20-year-old English soccer star has been subject to bigotry on social media.
The Mirror notes that an October Instagram photo of Sterling and his daughter received its share of racist comments at the time. Prior to Sterling's controversial $75 million transfer from Liverpool to Manchester City in July, fans sent racist messages to Sterling through the mobile chat application WhatsApp after his phone number was leaked online.
It doesn't stop with him though -- Sterling's girlfriend locked her social media accounts last summer following her own encounter with death threats and racism, according to the Manchester Evening News.
Sterling has yet to respond to any of the aforementioned incidents.
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