December 2020

Multiple studies show that black athletes are often portrayed in the media as self-centered, selfish and arrogant. These radicalized media messages have been shown to naturalize the athletic and societal differences between blacks and whites. According to researchers, these news articles can be highly influential in structuring ideas about race and ethnicity.

On several occasions, Raheem Sterling was brave enough to call out double standards, stating that black and white players are treated differently by the media. For years Raheem Sterling has been the focus of a vitriolic obsession by the media, particularly the Daily Mail and The Sun. Having had his personal life and lifestyle choices picked over in a manner that has given off more than a whiff of classism and racial prejudice. In response, Raheem has been a passionate and articulate voice demanding balance in how young black athletes are portrayed, fighting lazy stereotypes and outlining the rank hypocrisy of those same media outlets who insist racism in football is confined to terraces of young distant nations in the former Soviet Union.

In March 2019 we came up with the idea to honor Raheem Sterling for taking a stance against racism in football. During the development process, we were informed of a charity using the power of football to support disadvantaged young people in the UK. We ended up making 10 unique banknotes with these kids that all have Raheem’s face on it. Fast forward to May 2020, there’s a global pandemic, no football on TV and the killing of George Floyd has sparked a global discussion on racism. Never before has it been so clear which side someone was on. Never had the world felt so divided as people on both sides continued to shout louder and louder. Concerned about the potential for negative backlash from right-wing extremists, the organization decided to withdraw itself from the project. Not because they don’t support the message, but to protect the kids from anything that might harm them.

For a while, we didn’t even know whether we wanted to proceed or not. But even though the stadiums remain largely empty, we wanted to do our part in shedding light on the racism that is still present within the game, the media and our institutions. That’s why we still want to take action and get this message out there. Even though we were a bit disappointed when the charity backed out, we fully understand and support their stance. In fact, we will donate all profits to this group, because ever since we met them, we believe they run one of the best organizations on the planet. In order for us to use the imagery that was already shot at this point, the only condition was to make the kids unrecognizable.

Lack of Guidance is proud to present Raheem on a Sterling
Do you accept Sterling?

Photography by Henry Rich