The first week of the Premier League's return has been rather underwhelming. Crowdless games have led, as many feared, to tepid affairs on the pitch. Add to that a number of teams in late-season mid-table obscurity and it gets even worse. What has been notable though has been the apparent unity of players, teams and officials behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Taking a knee at the start of every game as well as replacing the names on the back of shirts with the slogan has created an unique visual in the usually non-political world of the Premier League.
Last night came the first backlash to the movement on a grand scale as a plane was flown over the Ethiad Stadium just after kickoff in Manchester City's clash with Burnley. The plane carried a banner that read, "WHITE LIVES MATTER BURNLEY."
Burnley released a statement soon after condemning the banner distancing themselves entirely from the sentiment, saying it "in no way represents" what the club stands for.
Burnley strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner.
We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor.
We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.
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 kick-off at Manchester City.
Stronger still was the response of Burnley captain Ben Mee. In an interview with Sky Sports after his team's 5-0 defeat, Mee, unprompted, brought up the banner and was unequivocal in his disgust for the message and for the fact it bore the club's name.
"I'm ashamed and embarrassed"
Burnley's Ben Mee responds to an offensive banner flown over the Etihad Stadium before today's game with Man Citypic.twitter.com/FEQqOEb3yu
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) June 22, 2020
Burnley voted 66.6% in favour of Brexit, In the first three general elections of the 21st Century, the town gave an average of 10% of the vote to British National Party candidates, blowing their national average out of the water. Whether it's fair or not, whoever flew this banner over the Ethiad last night won't help the reputation of Burnley.