English Premier League club Burnley’s condemnation of a “White Lives Matter” banner that flew over the Etihad Stadium on Monday has drawn angry and confrontational reactions on social media.
Burnley issued a statement during the match against Manchester City saying those responsible for flying the banner would be issued lifetime bans at the club, while captain Ben Mee and coach Sean Dyche also spoke out against it.
However, the club’s social media pages were flooded with criticism to the club’s response.
“Ben Mee absolute disgraceful comments,” read one comment on Burnley’s Facebook page.
“Both him and the Burnley press officer should be collected their stuff in a cardboard box this morning and kicked out the club.”
Another Facebook comment read: “So totally wrong Burnley, you will for pay for this. Hope they fly it over all your remaining games,” while others said: “racist Scumbags condemning that plane” and “you ought to be ashamed of being ashamed you idiots.”
“We’ll not grace the social media comments with a statement,” a Burnley media spokesman told CNN.
On Tuesday, Burnley issued a detailed statement outlining its policy of making the organization “one club for all” and representing “all parts of our community.”
“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,” said the statement.
“This punishment will also be meted out to those responsible for Monday’s regrettable incident.”
Later on Tuesday in an interview with CNN anchor Phil Black, Burnley CEO Neil Hart said the club had work to do around the “Black Lives Matter” message.
“There is a lack of education around ‘Black Lives Matter’,” said Hart. “If we could educate some of these individuals and I don’t mean to be patronizing – if we could educate some of our supporters that would massively help us as a football club.”
‘I will refuse to support them’
Although a lot of the anger has erupted on Burnley’s social media channels because of the banner, it isn’t unusual for the club’s accounts to be inundated with anti-Black Lives Matter comments and interactions.
Since the club started promoting Black Lives Matter content, many on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have condemned the club’s support – with some fans going as far as saying they would stop supporting Burnley.
Last week, David Walker was particularly angry at the team’s decision to have the Black Lives Matter message on the back of the players’ shirts.
“Only 1 thing should be on that shirt,” he said in a Facebook comment. “That’s the Claret’s badge and for the first time in my life I will refuse to support them on Monday night,” added Walker, referring to Burnley’s nickname. The team play in a claret and blue uniform.
Not all the comments were negative.
One user said they were “incredibly grateful for the players’ and club’s support of common decency,” while another said they were “extremely proud of Burnley football club and what it stands for. A community club for all.”
When negative comments started coming last week – with the Premier League return – there were voices on Burnley’s accounts trying to explain the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Understand the meaning of the movement … The reason why this movement exists and HAS TO exist. It is a reaction to the unjust treatment of Black people. Please just understand that. Then we can have a conversation,” one user wrote.
In his post-match interview with Sky Sports, Mee added that he felt it was a “small minority of people” who were not supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lancashire police announced on Tuesday that an investigation was taking place into the banner to assess whether “any criminal offences have taken place.”
Clubs across the Premier League have supported the Black Lives Matter movement since the league resumed last week.
All players of the 20 top-flight clubs have worn “Black Lives Matter” in place of their names on the back of their shirts, as well as taking a knee before kick-offs.
“We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor,” Burnley said in a statement relating to the “White Lives Matter” banner.
“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.
“The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind.
“We are 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 kickoff at Manchester City.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche, whose side lost 5-0 in Monday’s game, said the banner was “clearly unacceptable” and former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair expressed his “disappointment” at the banner.
“#BlackLivesMatter is for the good of humanity not just Black lives,” said Sinclair.
Additional reporting by Phil Black and Jo Shelley