June 22 – The recent resumption of the English Premier League suffered a sour off-the-field incident on Monday when a plane carrying a banner provocatively declaring ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ flew over Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium at the start of the fixture between the teams.
The plane appeared shortly after players from both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and circled the stadium for several minutes. There was no immediate indication who had organised it.
Police said they will be “fully investigating” the incident while the banner was quickly condemned by Burnley, who vowed to “work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.”
English clubs have been collectively supporting the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. When the league season resumed last week, ‘Black Lives Matter’ replaced player names on the backs of shirts while players, coaches and match officials have taken a knee for about 10 seconds before kickoff in the first 12 matches of the resumption.
In a statement Burnley said: “The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind.
“We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.
“We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.”
Burnley captain Ben Mee said after the game, which his side lost 5-0, that the players had got wind of the fact that something may have been planned.
“As we were coming out we heard some whispers that it was going to happen. The club tried to stop it. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “I am ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to fly that around the stadium. It is not what we are about. They have missed what we are trying to achieve.”
“These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They don’t represent what we are about, the club is about, the players are about and the majority of fans are about. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to associate it with my club. I don’t want to see this in the game.
“It is not right. We totally condemn it. These people can learn and be taught what Black Lives Matter is trying to achieve.”
Piara Powar, executive director of the anti-discrimination body Fare, commented: “Set against the BLM message of equal rights, ‘White Lives Matter’ can only be motivated by racism and a denial of equal rights. It shows exactly why the fight for equality is so important and why the majority of people have supported it. The movement, the issues that are being discussed and the change that will arise is unstoppable. History will judge that this was a moment that led to change.”
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