London (AFP) – Burnley chairman Mike Garlick has pledged to “root out the racists” behind the White Lives Matter banner that flew over his team’s match at Manchester City.
A plane towing a banner that read “White Lives Matter Burnley” was seen in the sky above the Etihad Stadium on Monday shortly after both teams had taken a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Burnley have promised to hand lifetime bans to those responsible and Garlick told ESPN: “We will root out these racists and I am sure they will be dealt with in due course.
“We will do whatever we can to make sure justice is done against these people.
“Let’s be clear. The plane didn’t fly in our name. It has absolutely nothing to do with Burnley Football Club and we absolutely deplore it.
“But we have to talk about it. We cannot and will not sweep it under the carpet.
“I was at the game and I have been chairman or co-chairman for eight years. I have always been proud to be in that position, but I can tell you that I wasn’t proud to be Burnley chairman last night.”
However Despite a storm of criticism for the banner, Lancashire police investigated the incident and said no crime was committed.
“Today Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium last night,” Chief Superintendent Russ Procter said.
“After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time.”
– Captain Mee ‘ashamed’ –
Burnley captain Ben Mee, in his post-match comments after his side’s 5-0 defeat at City, said he was “ashamed”, urging people to “come into the 21st century”.
Iffy Onuora, an equalities officer for the Professional Footballers’ Association, said Mee’s strong words had been well-chosen.
“You get that moment of deflation but then there’s the positive reaction since,” he said.
“I thought Ben Mee was absolutely fantastic. You feel inspired again. These are uncomfortable conversations but in order to progress, you have to have them.”
The words “Black Lives Matter” have been printed on the back of shirts in place of players’ names for the first 12 games of the Premier League’s return.
Players, coaches and referees have taken a knee before kick-off in every match to show their support for the fight against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in the United States last month.
“In itself, the words themselves aren’t offensive, it’s the context,” said Onuora, a former head coach of the Ethiopia national side, referring to the banner.
“It’s the rejection of conversations we are having at the moment and that’s what it represents.”
The aircraft took off and landed at Blackpool Airport, which said it would stop operating banner flights in the wake of the incident.
Sanjay Bhandari, chairman of Kick It Out, English football’s anti-racism charity, said the fans who had organised the stunt were missing the point.
“The point of Black Lives Matter is not to diminish the importance of other people’s lives,” he said.
“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.”