Raheem Sterling explains gun tattoo following media backlash

England footballer Raheem Sterling has taken to social media to explain his latest tattoo following a media backlash.

The Sun initially reported on the furore of anti-gun campaigners over the Manchester City star's body art - an M16 assault rifle running down the length of his lower leg - with one mother of a shooting victim calling for the 23-year-old attacker to be dropped from the England squad.

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Lucy Cope, a member of Mothers Against Guns branded the tattoo 'an absolute disgrace."

A post shared by Raheem Sterling x 😇 (@sterling7) on May 27, 2018 at 2:41pm PDT

Since the publication of The Sun article, which dominates the newspaper's front page and website, Sterling has revealed the deeper meaning behind the tattoo.

"When I was 2 my father died from being gunned down to death I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my life time," he posted on Instagram.

"I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning and still unfinished."

According to the Manchester Evening News Sterling's father was shot dead when the footballer was just two years old.

Defence of Sterling

Many football pundits and players - past and present - have leapt to the defence of Sterling.

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Manchester City fan Adam Keyworth charted The Sun's supposed targeting of the 23 year old footballer in a lengthy Twitter thread.

[Thread] a selection of times when our national press have chosen to run stories on Raheem Sterling. 1. The one where Raheem was 'tired'. pic.twitter.com/6K3cHu6r7T

— Adam Keyworth (@adamkeyworth) May 28, 2018

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker quoted the thread and described the "persecution" as "disgusting".

He's a terrific footballer with a brilliant work ethic. This persecution is disgusting. https://t.co/bx3JArBt1L

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) May 28, 2018

The scrutiny of Raheem Sterling's personal tattoo comes ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup this month, and Lineker described the criticism of Sterling as "unpatriotic".

Unique to this country to attempt to destroy our players morale before a major tournament. It's weird, unpatriotic and sad. https://t.co/vCfVTm9w0r

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) May 28, 2018

Journalist Noorudean Choudry suggested that Sterling was at risk of being smothered by the press.

Lots of you getting in touch this morning about Raheem Sterling's gun tattoo '“ which side are you on?Nooruddean Choudry (@BeardedGenius) writes for @JOE_co_uk#5liveBreakfast pic.twitter.com/ewWHpGI8rx

— BBC Radio 5 live (@bbc5live) May 29, 2018

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Others have insisted that Sterling is a positive role model for young footballers.

Raheem Sterling is a brilliant role-model for kids. He's unfailingly polite; he ignores life's haters; he works incredibly hard to improve himself and become the best that he can be; and he takes care of his mum.

— Stephen Tudor (@SteTudor123) May 29, 2018

BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker also defended Sterling accusing The Sun and former News of the World editor Piers Morgan of hounding Sterling.

Spends too muchSpends too littleEats too muchHas the audacity to buy his mum a sinkDisgustingly flies on a private jetHumiliated by flying budgetHow dare he mark the death of his dad in a way he chooses?🙄🙄🙄 https://t.co/lXWVjT201v

— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) May 29, 2018