Burnley captain Ben Mee says he is "ashamed" and "embarrassed" as club vows to ban those responsible for life; MNF pundit Micah Richards adds: "It goes deeper than just a plane, I'd like to get deeper to the root of the problem to make real change because that was absolutely disgusting"
Tuesday 23 June 2020 20:44, UK
Lancashire Police are investigating the offensive 'White Lives Matter Burnley' banner which was flown over the Etihad Stadium on Monday.
The incident occurred shortly after kick-off on Monday Night Football, just moments after the Manchester City and Burnley players had taken a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lancashire Police chief superintendent Russ Procter said: "We are making enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and we will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place.
"We recognise that this banner will have caused offence to many people in Lancashire and beyond and we continue to liaise closely with our partners at both the club and in the local authority."
A updated statement from Lancashire Police on Tuesday evening stated no criminal offences have been disclosed at this time.
Chief superintendent Procter said: "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.
"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. We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority."
The plane took off from and returned to Blackpool Airport, who has said it will stop operating banner flights with immediate effect.
It is not yet known who flew the plane or who commissioned the banner.
Stephen Smith, the manager for Blackpool Airport, said in a statement: "Blackpool Airport and Blackpool Council are outraged by this incident. We stand against racism of any kind and absolutely do not condone the activity, the message was offensive and the action reprehensible.
"The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council. Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator's discretion.
"The incident was reported to the police on Monday evening and the Civil Aviation Authority has been notified. Blackpool Airport are investigating the banner operator in question and further action will be taken by the Board tomorrow (Wednesday).
"Following an emergency review this morning Blackpool Airport will suspend all banner towing operations at the airport with immediate effect and we would suggest that other airports should also consider this approach in light of what has happened at Blackpool."
After the club issued a strongly-worded condemnation of the incident at half-time, Burnley CEO Neil Hart and chairman Mike Garlick issued a joint statement on Tuesday, vowing to impose lifetime bans from Turf Moor on those who were responsible.
"Burnley Football Club is opposed to any form of racism and discrimination of any kind," the joint statement read.
"As custodians of the club, we stand firmly behind the statement condemning the message flown over the Etihad Stadium on Monday night and are fully in support of the words of club captain Ben Mee, delivered after the match.
"Black Lives Matter is a movement supported by all players in the Premier League and the league itself.
"While we naturally consider that all lives matter, let us be clear that the Black Lives Matter movement aims to overcome years of racial inequality against the BAME community and promote a greater fairness for all.
"We at Burnley therefore stand firmly behind it and oppose anything that may appear to undermine or challenge such a positive message.
"At Turf Moor, our overarching and prevailing club mantra is that Burnley FC is 'One Club for All'.
"It is an ethos supported by the manager, players, board of directors and all staff and a message that feeds into activities across the football club and our partners Burnley FC in the Community, whose activities currently reach 33,000 participants, over 19 per cent of whom are from a BAME background.
"The club operates a zero-tolerance stance on discrimination of any form at Turf Moor and is increasingly issuing lifetime bans for supporters that incite racism and hatred. This punishment will also be meted out to those responsible for Monday's regrettable incident."
The statement detailed the range of outreach activities and initiatives the club run in conjunction with BAME communities in Burnley, adding: "Together, we will not stand for anything that threatens to undermine the good work we are doing, and reiterate that we will take the strongest action against those who seek to threaten that."
Burnley lost the game 5-0 to Man City.
Clarets manager Sean Dyche, who did not see the plane at the time, said he was disgusted by the incident.
Dyche said: "As a club we can only apologise. It is unacceptable."
Antony Higginbotham, the MP for Burnley, told Sky Sports News: "This crass publicity stunt was done with the intention of offending and causing hurt to so many in our community and those responsible should be ashamed of their desire to divide people.
"They do not speak for the town and the club has my full support in finding out who they are and taking action.
"These attitudes have no place in Burnley or our society. We should be working together to tackle inequality rather than using people's race, religion or background to divide our community.
"I will keep working with the Premier League and Burnley FC to stamp out prejudice and discrimination."
"I'm ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium," Burnley captain Ben Mee said post-match on Monday Night Football.
"They've completely missed the point. The lads are embarrassed to see that. It's not what we're about. They've completely missed the point about the whole thing we're trying to achieve.
"These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. It does not represent what we're about, the club's about, 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 has happened.
"As we were coming out. We heard some whispers it was going to happen. The club tried to stop it but I've heard it's a small number of people that have arranged this.
"I hope it doesn't happen again. Like I said, I am ashamed and upset that this is associated with our club, my club, and it's not something we want to see in the game at all.
"It's not right. I totally condemn it. Like I said, I am embarrassed by it. It misses the whole point of everything, hopefully these people can learn about what the Black Lives Matters movement is trying to achieve.
"We went equality in society and in football, whether that be (in terms of) race, religion, gender or the LGBTQ community. The players all want to make a stand against these things and make a stand for minorities."
Reflecting on the incident after the game, Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester City defender Micah Richards said he simply has no idea why the people behind the banner stunt felt it was necessary.
"A lot of people say all this [racial abuse] happens in America, it doesn't happen in England - well it's proof today that, and I know it's a small minority, but they do feel like that.
"I don't want to fight fire with fire. I want to educate people. I would love to know why do they feel this way, I would love for them to explain to me why do they feel this way because I've been brought up around a lot of black people, a lot of white people.
"I'm genuine in my heart, so I don't understand why people actually feel this way. Until we understand why then nothing's going to change.
"We can wear t-shirts, we can do Black Lives Matter protests and slowly we're getting better but it just shows you today that although it's a small minority, it's still happening."
Richards added: "It goes deeper than just a plane, I'd like to get deeper to the root of the problem to make real change because today that was absolutely disgusting."
Since the resumption of the Premier League last Wednesday, all 20 Premier League clubs have shown their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The start of every game since the return to action has seen all players and officials take a knee before kicking off, while names have been replaced by 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of shirts.
The Premier League collectively decided to show its support for the movement for racial equality after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American, was killed after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.
Former West Ham and Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker said he was "lost for words" when he saw the banner flying over the Etihad Stadium.
"I couldn't believe a group of fans would take it to this extent," he told The Football Show. "I thought Ben Mee handled it very well, he was very genuine and genuinely upset. I don't think it's a reflection on the players at the club at all, it's just a small fanbase.
"And it's not just Burnley. There are other clubs with a small percentage (of fans) who would act like this.
"The guys who did this are not educated to understand what the whole protest is about. It's not about saying black lives matter more than anyone else, it's saying we are of equal value with other races.
"For some sports fans to understand, it would be like me sitting in a dressing room with one of my white colleagues. If I had a son I would have to have a separate conversation with him on how to deal with being stopped by the police. My white colleague won't ever have that conversation because you don't hear stories of young white men being stopped by the police and being killed.
"Countless times there have been young black men who have been killed by the police, the same people who are being paid to protect and serve, and get away with murder.
"That is what this whole situation is about. It's a fight for equality and saying our lives also matter.
"It's not saying our lives matter more than anyone else. It just shows the times we are living in and the insecurities some people have, and how equality would scare them."
Former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford echoed Reo-Coker's comments and hopes those responsible for the banner can be educated on the negative effect it has had.
"It's a lack of education, a lack of understanding and a lack of respect," Beckford added.