The banner took away from what was an emphatic performance by City and Phil Foden (centre facing camera) who scored two goals in their 5-0 victory. (Picture courtesy: Fernandinho/Twitter)
Despite the messages on their jerseys and the pre match tradition of taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the threat of divergent messaging has hit the Premier League very embarrassingly.
Yesterday, as Manchester City and Burnley players took a knee at the Etihad stadium, a plane with a banner that read ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ encircled the stadium.
The images were not a part of the broadcast and were only brought to attention to TV audiences when Ben Mee, Burnley’s captain addressed and condemned the banner in his post match interview.
“I’m ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium. There are a group of lads that are in there embarrassed to see that. It’s missed the whole point of what we’re trying to achieve and these people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves as a lot of us do,” Mee said.
“It doesn’t represent what we’re about, what the club is about, what the players are about and what the majority of the fans are about. It’s a small minority of people and I’m really upset that it happened. As we were coming out we heard some whispers it was going to happen. The club tried to stop it.”
Burnley have vowed to issue lifetime bans to those responsible for the offensive stunt and issued a statement that apologised “unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter”.
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“This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for,” the statement read, “and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.”
City manager Pep Guardiola was equally critical of the banner. “Of course white lives matter but black lives matter too. Human beings matter. Everyone, we are the same. Every day we have to fight not just for this situation but for all the injustice around the world. It starts with the schools, for the new generations to understand we are equal and the education will save us,” he said.
The Fare network, a European equality body that works with UEFA and FIFA, condemned the stunt. “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 said.
“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 banner took away all the attention from what was an emphatic performance by City who blew through Burnley with a 5-0 victory. City wonder kid, Phil Foden put in a man of the match performance, scoring two goals in the rout.