Premier League legend Ian Wright has accused Raheem Sterling's many critics of targeting the Manchester City and England winger because of racism, suggesting there is nothing from a football perspective that warrants the level of negative attention he gets.
Sterling has infamously been the subject of numerous tabloid stories over the years that have framed his personal life in an unnecessarily negative light.
The 23-year-old has been bashed for shopping at places like Greggs and Primark and flying on budget airlines, while equally spending a large sum of money - quoting his weekly wages is a favourite of the tabloids - on buying his mother a house.
The morning after last season's PFA Awards, having been beaten to the Young Player of the Year gong by teammate Leroy Sane, the Daily Mail published pictures of Sterling out for breakfast accompanied by a headline that implied he should have been embarrassed to show his face.
There was also 'outrage' when he had a rifle tattooed on his leg, a new inking that went unnoticed for weeks despite no attempts to hide it, with Sky Sports even adding an additional word to a statement from the player explaining his motives that significantly altered what he was saying.
The player was continually bashed by England fans and the mainstream media during the World Cup and Wright told BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday he can only think racism is the reason for it.
🗣"They want to keep him down, however high he reaches. They don't want him to continue to be a success"— BBC 5 Live Sport on BBC Sounds (@5liveSport) August 13, 2018
Powerful stuff from @IanWright0, who says some criticism of Raheem @Sterling7 in the media is 'tinged with racism'. pic.twitter.com/GMQ3zfMEDm
"How many people do you see get the criticism Sterling gets?" the former Arsenal striker asked.
"The football criticism is something every player has to deal with, but what he gets I don't see any other footballer getting. They don't get that stick because for whatever reason they don't rub up the people in the corridors of power the wrong way. I think there is an agenda against him.
"There is an element of people at high end of the media who want to keep that guy down. Simple. When you look at the wave of criticism that he takes, there is a certain amount of racism towards it - what else can it be?
"They are picking on him because of the background he has come from and they want to keep him down, drag him back down. They don't want him to continue to be a success.
"People say you are playing the racism card, but you give me a good reason why Raheem Sterling gets the stick he gets for just being a footballer."