Burnley will issue lifetime bans to supporters responsible for a ‘White Lives Matter’ banner flown over the Etihad Stadium, with captain Ben Mee describing the club as “ashamed and embarrassed” by the stunt.
Mee and his team-mates had heard rumours before kick-off of a plane behind flown overhead and saw the sign – with the club’s name also printed on it – as they took a knee before the 5-0 defeat against Manchester City.
It is understood both clubs had intelligence of the light aircraft carrying a banner before the match but had not been able to prevent the incident.
It comes after players and staff from all clubs have been taking a knee during the opening matches of Project Restart in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to fight racism which has spread globally since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of the police.
“I’m ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium,” said Mee. “It’s not what we are about at all. It’s missed to 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.
“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.
“It’s not right, we totally condemn it. I’m embarrassed by it and it misses the whole point of everything. Hopefully these people can learn and be taught what we are trying to do and what the whole Black Lives Matter movement is trying to achieve.
“You heard a plane above (while taking the knee), the players have pulled together and this is what we want, like the majority of fans – we want equality in society and in football, for everything whether race, religion, LBGTQ community.”
Burnley swiftly issued a statement at half-time promising to ban fans for life over the stunt.
“We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor,” it read. “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.
“We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.”
Former City defender Micah Richards, working as a Sky Sports pundit, made an emotional plea to educate the perpetrators.
“It just shows you, I speak to people who say that stuff all happens in America and it doesn’t happen in England,” he said. “Well, it’s proved that, although it is a small minority, they do feel like that. I don’t want to fight fire with fire, I want to educate people. I would want to know why.”