Burnley Football Club have moved swiftly to distance themselves and condemn those fans who organized for a ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ banner to be flown over The Etihad Stadium during the commencement of their game against Manchester City this evening, which they lost 0-5.
The club say they are “ashamed and embarrassed”.
The aircraft circled over the stadium just after kick-off which was preceded the players of both teams taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Fans like that don’t deserve to be around football,” an angry Clarets skipper Ben Mee told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Defender Mee added: “We’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed.
“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 massive impact on us to see that in the sky.
“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.”
In a statement, Burnley said that the banner “in no way represents” what the club stands for and that they will “work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and take appropriate action”.
“Burnley strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner,” the statement added.
“We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor.
“We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote ‘Black Lives Matter’.
“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.”
Both Burnley and City were wearing shirts with the players’ names replaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’.
Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards said seeing the banner was “disheartening”.
“After how far we’ve come in these last couple of weeks, it really does hurt me,” he told Sky Sports.
“I agree everyone should have free speech but when it looked like everything was on the up there’s a small fraction who want to ruin it.”
Asked about the banner, City boss Pep Guardiola said society could not overturn 400 years of racial injustice in one week but added “we are going to change the situation”.
“We need time, the racism is still there. We have to fight every day and condemn the bad things,” he said.
Some Twitter users appeared to identify those responsible for the banners via leaked text messages and flight paths. These screen-grabs have not yet been verified.
There have been plenty of signs the Black Lives Matter campaign is not fully supported by all in the UK or indeed elsewhere, and as the movement gathers apace there may potentially be a sense of ‘enough’ from those less committed, suggesting their sympathies have peaked and may now be waning slightly.
Some on social media for instance have suggested it more appropriate for Premier League players to have National Health Service replacing their names on their shirts after nurses’, doctors’ and health-workers’ immense contribution in the fight against Covid-19.
It seems clear however the problem of racism remains a very real, world issue. Recent events have provided a platform to tackle the problem, but Guardiola is right, racism cannot be obliterated over-night.
Calm and patience are both needed. It would be hugely disappointing to see support, sympathy and traction for Black Lives Matter diminish, due to some peoples’ perceived over-aggression on the part of the campaign, perhaps leading to more protests like the one witnessed this evening.
That will do no-one any good.