Raheem Sterling has leapt to the defence of Manchester City team-mate Bernardo Silva amid the controversy surrounding his about Benjamin Mendy.
Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out have called for the FA to act after Silva posted a picture of Mendy next to a black cartoon character from the Spanish chocolate brand Conguitos last weekend.
City boss Pep Guardiola has been forced to defend the Portugal international on numerous occasions this week, insisting the post was not racist, and following the 3-1 victory over Everton on Saturday, Sterling echoed his manager’s thoughts.
“I don’t feel there’s any racism in it,” Sterling told Sky Sports.
“It’s a situation between two friends, Bernardo and Mendy, as everyone knows. I can see exactly the point where some people can get touchy-feely on it but I feel in that situation Bernardo made a joke to his friend.
“He’s not referred to his skin colour, he’s not referred to his lips. In both the pictures they’ve both got small heads, you know. The most important thing for me is he didn’t refer to a colour.”
Sterling has emerged as one of the most prominent voices on racism in football following a string of incidents which plagued the game last season.
Silva has since written to the FA to apologise for his post, while Mendy penned a personal statement to the governing body defending his team-mate.
Sterling added: “I feel it’s really sad to see someone like Bernardo, the whole week, be kind of down about it because he’s not that way inclined. I keep going on about it, they’re really good friends, it’s really sad to see.
“He’s not in the wrong for me but at the same time I can see where people think it’s wrong and we just need to be smarter on social media.
“We understand in this day and age anything you say and anything you do can quickly be judged and it’s really just a sad situation in this moment in time.
“There’s not one moment he uses a negative term to speak about his skin colour so that’s the most important thing. He tried to make a joke and that joke wasn’t the best, but we’ve got to move on and understand it was not intentional.”
John Barnes joined talkSPORT’s Kick Off on Thursday to challenge people’s views of what they consider racist, insisting that he doesn’t find the post offensive and others shouldn’t either.
Explaining his views to Hugh Woozencroft and Darren Lewis, the 79-cap England hero said: “Why are they offended by that picture?
“I know the ramifications historically, I know about the cartoon, I know everything that goes on and about how black people are disenfranchised… the point I’m trying to make is we have to change the narrative.
“I should be able to look at a carton of a jet black man with big lips and not feel that is negative. Why do we feel that’s negative? Because historically that has been the narrative, but we have to change the narrative.