Police investigate 'White Lives Matter' banner at EPL game

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A plane towing a banner reading White Lives Matter Burnley flies above the stadium during the during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, England, Monday, June 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Shaun Botterill,Pool)

BURNLEY – Police began an investigation Tuesday after a plane pulling a banner containing the message “White Lives Matter Burnley” flew over a Premier League soccer match, drawing condemnation from players, politicians and anti-discrimination leaders.

The aircraft came into view moments after players and coaches from Manchester City and Burnley took a knee at kickoff on Monday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It circled City’s Etihad Stadium for several minutes.

The identity of those responsible for the stunt was unclear but British media reported the plane was operated by a firm called Air Ads, which is based at Blackpool Airport in northern England — about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Burnley. The airport announced it was suspending banner-towing operations with immediate effect, saying it was “outraged” by the incident.

Russ Proctor, chief superintendent of the police force of northwest county Lancashire, said officers were trying to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

“We will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offenses have taken place,” he said.

Burnley’s captain, Ben Mee, and the club were quick to condemn those responsible for the banner and said they were fully behind the Black Lives Matter movement that has gained popularity worldwide since the killing of George Floyd in the United States last month.

In a fresh statement published Tuesday, Burnley underlined that its overarching and prevailing club mantra is that Burnley is “One Club for All.”

“While we naturally consider that all lives matter, let us be clear that the Black Lives Matter movement aims to overcome years of racial inequality against the BAME community and promote a greater fairness for all,” the club said. “We at Burnley therefore stand firmly behind it and oppose anything that may appear to undermine or challenge such a positive message.”