Burnley have forcefully condemned a ‘White Lives Matter’ stunt carried out during the team’s game at Manchester City, describing the fly-past of a banner bearing the slogan as “offensive” and at odds with the club’s values.
A small plane trailing the words ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ flew over the pitch shortly after kick-off at the Etihad Stadium, in an act later described by Fare – the European equality body – as part of a wider “racist backlash”.
Players from both teams were wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of their shirts, as has been customary since the Premier League returned amid anti-racism protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the United States, and all 22 had taken the knee moments before the fly-past.
In a statement issued at half-time, Burnley were swift in their criticism of the incident and suggested the support of those involved was not wanted.
“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,” it read.
“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.”
Fare, which works with both UEFA and FIFA on inclusion and equality issues, 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.”