Burnley Football Club has condemned an “offensive” banner saying “White Lives Matter Burnley!” which was flown over a match just days after three white people were stabbed to death in Reading, and vowed to “work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible”.
The banner was flown over an Etihad Stadium match between Burnley FC and Manchester City, whose manager Pep Guardiola has previously said that “white people should apologise” to black people in response to the civil unrest following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The match came just two days after six people were stabbed in a park in Reading, England, leading to three people dying of their wounds in what police are treating as a terrorist incident. The victims, all white men, are believed to be members of the UK LGBT+ community.
On the outrage felt by leading sports personalities over a banner stating that white lives matter being flown above a football match, Burnely’s team captain, Ben Mee said: “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,” adding that the club was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by the banner.
“It definitely had a massive impact on us to see that in the sky,” he told the BBC — Burnley lost the match 5-0 — saying that the team was “embarrassed that our name was in it, that they tried to attach it to our club — it doesn’t belong anywhere near our club.”
Burnley fan @JordanClaret tells #BBCBreakfast he supports the passionate response from @BurnleyOfficial Captain Ben Mee over the 'White Lives Matter' banner flown over the #ManCityBurnley match.
More here: https://t.co/UfPL6U03LJ pic.twitter.com/xzFf77YsKz
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) June 23, 2020
“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,” the club said in an official statement on the incident.
“We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor,” it added, referring to the club’s home stadium, assuring readers that a White Lives Matter banner “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.”
Several UK newspapers named Burnley fan Jake Hepple as the man responsible for the banner on Tuesday. Police say they are investigating.
Sickening to Witness: A light aircraft buzzes over stadium during Premier League game between Manchester City and Burnley towing a banner proclaiming "White Lives Matter – Burnley." Every Nation has so much work to do #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/hr9nRjuDH3
— roger bennett (@rogbennett) June 22, 2020
The club boasted of its “proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths” and insisted it was “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,” the club concluded.
In recent weeks, the player names on the back of Premier League team jerseys have been replaced with the Black Lives Matter slogan, and all players have “taken the knee” at matches.