The Premier League has returned to action over the past few days after the coronavirus-forced hiatus and one of the standout aspects has been the sight of players, staff and officials across clubs taking a knee at kick-off in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, all players have worn shirts with their names replaced by ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the backside.
But on Monday night, the display of solidarity was marred by an act of rebelling by a group of Burnley fans. Flying a message across the skies has become a fad of sorts in the Premier League of late, usually to protest against a manager, but this time it took a turn for some embarrassment.
Burnley captain Ben Mee told fans who flew a “White Lives Matter” banner above the Etihad Stadium at the start of a 5-0 defeat by Manchester City on Monday “to come into the 21st century”.
The banner reading “White lives matter Burnley” was seen shortly after all players and match officials had taken a knee.
“The aeroplane that went out at the beginning of the game, I am ashamed, I’m embarrassed, that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium,” said Mee.
“It completely missed the point. The group of lads in there are embarrassed to see that and not what we are about at all. It missed the point of the whole thing of what we are trying to achieve. These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves as a lot of us do. I’m really upset that happened.”
Burnley also issued a statement at half-time saying those responsible for the aircraft would be handed lifetime bans from the club.
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— via Burnley FC
Black Lives Matter have been printed on the back of shirts rather than players’ names for the first 12 games of the Premier League’s return. The gesture comes following the death of black American George Floyd at the hands of police last month, which sparked protests around the world and led to sportspeople showing solidarity with those demonstrations.
The act by certain Burnley fans was met with criticism on Twitter:
(With AFP inputs)