A Media Creation
The example that sticks with Sterling is the one about his cars. In 2016, a handful of Britain’s tabloids ran articles that claimed he was “looking for a seventh car so that he has one for each day of the week.” None of them quoted Sterling on that particular ambition. Each ran a set of pictures of the forward behind the wheel of various vehicles.
“These were cars that I had had between the ages of 17 and 23,” he said. “But they made it that Raheem has one for Monday, one for Tuesday, and so on. All these cars are gone, sold. But what do you do when you sell a car? You buy a new one. But they have a picture of me in each car, so the story is that I drive a car each day. People see that and think that’s what he’s up to — buying cars, living the best life.”
For the record, Sterling said, he currently has one car, and his partner, Paige Milian, has another. He is, he said, “in the process of selling mine, to get a more subtle one.”
It is not just the cars, though. Sterling has made headlines for, variously: flying on a budget airline; eating at Greggs, a British sandwich chain; and shopping at Poundland, a discount shop.
Whenever one of these articles emerges, his friends send him a link — accompanied by a host of laughing emojis — on their group chat. Sometimes Sterling laughs, too. “There is a lot more going on in this world than me going to Greggs,” he said.
The endlessness of it, though, wears him down. “What is the need for it?” he said. “What is the need for this story? Sometimes you ask what the motive is.”
More pernicious than the content of the articles, in his mind, is the way they are framed: the little asides, the giddy, superfluous mentions of his weekly wage and, in particular, the dog-whistle words — the hints that this young, successful, high-profile black footballer is not spending the money he has earned correctly, or that he has not earned it at all.