Yesterday during the Manchester City - Burnley match, shortly after players from both clubs took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, a plane pulling a banner that read “White Lives Matter Burnley” flew over the stadium.
I’m tired of this garbage. I hope you’re tired of this garbage. And if those of us not targeted by this hatred are tired of it, imagine how Black people feel dealing with it all the time. Talking about racism is uncomfortable. It forces us to examine parts of ourselves that we may not want to look closely at. It can reveal things that we’re not proud of and ways we’ve fallen short. That’s a good thing. We need to be uncomfortable to grow and become better.
Burnley issued a statement condemning the message carried by the plane, which I applaud them for, but at this point, statements aren’t enough anymore. To their credit, they’ve vowed to issue lifetime bans to those responsible.
We need to stop simply addressing instances of racism on an individual basis when they crop up and then going back to business as usual. We need to work to eradicate racism from sports and society everyday, not just when it is politically expedient and popular to do so. We may be doing alright treating the symptoms, but we need to treat the underlying disease.
The Burnley statement:
Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.
We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor.
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 kick-off at Manchester City.
We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.
Said Micah Richards, former England captain and Manchester City player:
It’s so disheartening. After how far we’ve come in the last couple of weeks, it really does hurt me. I agree, everyone should have free speech, but just at a time when things are on the up, a small fraction just want to spoil things. Burnley have come out and condemned it, but it just shows you — I speak to a lot of people who say, ‘all that stuff happens in America, it doesn’t happen in England.’ We can wear t-shirts, we can do ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, and slowly we’re getting better. But it just shows today, that although it’s a small minority, it’s still happening.
Said Burnley defender Ben Mee:
We literally heard 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 who’ve arranged this. Hope it doesn’t happen again. I’m ashamed and upset it’s associated with the club, my club, and it’s not something we want to see in this game.
Racism is a pervasive evil in our society. It infects everything, whether we can know and see it or not. It’s there. We need to be anti-racist. Listen to Black voices and believe their experiences. Call out the casual racism you see in your day to day life. Take action.
I’ve been listening, collecting my thoughts, and contemplating what I want to say about Arsenal’s Black Lives Matter displays. I expect to write something more in-depth about what the players and the club have done soon, so keep an eye out for that. But with the display at Burnley yesterday, and with Bubba Wallace, an outspoken-on-racial-issues Black NASCAR driver finding a noose in his garage, I felt we needed this front and center, again.