I agree with you to some extent we shouldn't tie everything to race. Pundits should feel like the can criticise black players equally to white. On the Sterling thing, I don't think everything bad about him in the papers is down to his race, but people have pointed out the occasional difference in tone when talking about black and white players, which again whilst not being overtly racist do point towards a subconscious bias. Below isn't about Sterling, but shows a prime example. The headline on the left misses the detail that this house was for his mum too, the headline on the right fails to mention he hadn't started a Premier league game either at that point.
Look at the Mail headline about Sterling after England were knocked out of euro 2016, talking about his obscene, vulgar house he'd brought for his mum and how he didnt seem to care about England going out. Then look at how Harry Maguires arrest in Greece was covered days after man utd were knocked out of Europe. Sympathy, and talking it down.