UK police investigating ‘White Lives Matter’ banner over stadium

Police in the UK is looking into an incident in which a plane towed a banner reading “White Lives Matter Burnley” over Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium at the start of a Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City.

What you need to know

The aircraft came into view moments after players and coaches from both clubs took a knee at kick-off on Monday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It circled the stadium for several minutes.

Police in Lancashire said on Twitter they will be “fully investigating” the incident on Tuesday. The banner was quickly condemned by Burnley, which has said it would “work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans”.

Why is this happening now?

The incident comes at a time when the Premier League and its clubs are throwing their weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd in the US city of Minneapolis last month.

When the league season resumed last week amid the coronavirus outbreak, “Black Lives Matter” replaced player names on the backs of shirts. Players, coaches and match officials have taken a knee for about 10 seconds before kick-off in the first 12 matches.

Does this fall under free speech?

Iffy Onuora, equalities officer for the Professional Footballers’ Association, said he hoped the widespread condemnation of the banner would act as a catalyst for further conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The words themselves aren’t offensive; it’s just the context. It’s the rejection of the conversation we’re having at the moment. That’s what it represents,” Onuora told the BBC. “I guess people have the right to do it. For me, it’s just proof again that these things can lead to positive things because all that’s been said in the 12 hours since the game finished has been, again, a catalyst, another conversation to have.”

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