Raheem Sterling said that the tattoo has a deeper meaning and it is still unfinished Photograph:( Reuters )
England international Raheem Sterling has defended a new tattoo depicting an assault rifle after anti-gun campaigners labelled it "disgusting" on Tuesday.
The Manchester City forward posted a photograph on Instagram while training with the England team at St George's Park ahead of next month's World Cup in Russia with the tattoo of a rifle clearly visible on his right leg.
Founder of campaign group Mothers Against Guns, Lucy Cope, whose son was shot dead outside a London nightclub in July 2002, said: "This tattoo is disgusting. Raheem should hang his head in shame. It's totally unacceptable.
"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."
Sterling, who is part of Gareth Southgate's 23-man squad who begin their World Cup campaign in Volgograd against Tunisia on June 18, again took to Instagram to defend himself, insisting the tattoo has a "deeper meaning."
"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 (and it is) still unfinished," the 23-year-old wrote.
An FA spokesperson said: “We all support Raheem Sterling and acknowledge the honest and heartfelt account he gave via Instagram last night. He and the rest of the squad are focused solely on preparing for the forthcoming World Cup."