Rio: Anger at Sterling isn't racist.
Byline: SIMON MULLOCK
RIO FERDINAND has dismissed suggestions that the storm surrounding Raheem Sterling is driven by racism.
The Manchester City winger was back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons last week after revealing a tattoo of an M16 assault rifle on his leg.
Critics hammered Sterling for glamourising gun crime, but he explained that the tattoo is a tribute to his father, who was killed by a gunman in Jamaica in 1999.
Liverpool fans have never forgiven Sterling for forcing through a PS49million move to City in 2016.
But he has been abused by fans of other clubs, too.
It has led to suggestions that Sterling is a victim of racism.
And last December, Karl Anderson was given a 16-week jail term after pleading guilty to racially aggravated assault when he attacked Sterling outside City's training ground.
But Ferdinand said: "I don't think it comes down to colour.
"There's always going to be one scapegoat and people then pick out that particular scapegoat and abuse him.
"Becks [David Beckham] had it once and Phil Neville also had it. I think some people just pick at things.
"When something happens in a tournament, it just triggers people into saying, 'He's the guy'.
"What I love about Raheem is that he has thick skin.
"He's a hard worker. He's someone who wants to do well and he's proven that he's a learner.
"And I think we've seen that this year, that he's been educated by Pep Guardiola.
"He's taken it all on board and we're seeing the player that we all believed he could be.
"He had talent and ability and now he's being pushed and coached in the right way - and he's flourishing." | |FIFA World Cup 2018 is live on the BBC across TV, radio and online, starting on June 14
GUN STORM: Sterling says it is a tribute to his late dad