Pictures of the Manchester City ace in England training this week with an assault rifle inked on his right leg sparked a media frenzy, with anti-gun campaigners branding it “disgusting” and “totally uncacceptable”.
Raheem Sterling has the support of the Football Association over his new gun tattoo.
Lucy Cope, who founded Mothers Against Guns after her son Damian was shot dead outside a club in central London in July 2012, told The Sun: “We demand he has the tattoo lasered off or covered up with a different tattoo.
“If he refuses he should be dropped from the England team. He’s supposed to be a role model but chooses to glamorise guns.”
Former Premier League boss Harry Redknapp also criticised the tattoo, calling it “crazy” and saying “if he’s got any sense he’ll go and get it taken off today”.
But Sterling has explained that it has a deeper meaning, revealing that it reflected a vow to “never touch a gun” after his father was shot dead when he was just two years old.
In an Instagram post, Sterling said: “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, I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning N still unfinished.”
And the the 23-year-old has the support of the FA.
An FA spokesperson said: “We all support Sterling and acknowledge the honest and heartfelt account he gave.”
The statement added: “He and the rest of the squad are focused solely on preparing for the forthcoming World Cup.”