Burnley has condemned the actions of those responsible after a banner with the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ flew above the Etihad Stadium during the club’s game against Manchester City.
The English Premier League side was quick to place on record its disgust at the message that stood in stark contrast to the shows of unity and support that have taken place since the Premier League resumed, with all players wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on their shirts and taking a knee before kick-off.
Football club said “those responsible are not welcome” at its Turf Moor ground while issuing an “unreserved” apology to the Premier League, Manchester City and the Black Lives Matter campaign.
After the game, Burnley captain Ben Mee spoke angrily about the banner, insisting the players on the field were sickened by what they saw above their heads.
A statement released at half-time read: “Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.
“We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.
“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.”
Mee told BBC Radio Five Live: “We as a group of players condemn it, we’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed.
“It completely misses the point of what we’re trying to achieve as a football community.
“It’s a minority of our supporters, I know I speak for a massive part of our support who distance ourselves from anything like that. It definitely had a had massive impact on us to see that in the sky.
“We were embarrassed, disappointed, upset. We are embarrassed that our name was in it. That they tried to attach it to our club. It doesn’t belong anywhere near our club. Fans like that don’t deserve to be around football.”
Fare – the European equality body which works with both UEFA and FIFA on inclusion and equality issue - offered a stark assessment, placing it as the latest in a series of distasteful acts across the continent.
“The racist backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement across Europe is a trend we have seen and documented,” Fare’s executive director Piara Powar told the PA news agency.
“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.
“At this stage we don’t know who is behind this, but it’s clear they don’t see the relevance of the message to football or the impact that racism has on so many people’s lives. So be 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.”
Kick It Out, English football’s anti-racism charity, told PA the sentiments of the banner represented a grave misunderstanding of the BLM initiative.
“The point of Black Lives Matter is not to diminish the importance of other people’s lives,” said the organisation’s chair Sanjay Bhandari.
“It is to highlight that black people are being denied certain human rights simply by virtue of the colour of their skin. It is about equality. We shall continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for greater equality for all in football.”