Blackpool airport suspends banner flights after 'White Lives Matter Burnley' controversy

Blackpool airport has announced it is suspending all banner-towing operations following the controversial and widely condemned 'White Lives Matter' incident prior to Burnley's clash with Manchester City.

A plane carrying the message 'White Lives Matter Burnley' was spotted after players from both teams took a knee at the Etihad Stadium immediately before the start of the match.

The gesture has been used as a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and a feature of top-flight matches since the league's return from the coronavirus suspension last week.

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Burnley acted quickly to release a statement condemning those responsible for the "offensive" banner, with manager Sean Dyche saying the sign was "completely unacceptable" and captain Ben Mee saying the players were left feeling "ashamed" and "embarrassed".

And Stephen Smith – Blackpool airport manager – has said the incident was "reprehensible" and that the airport is investigating after suspending all banner towing operations, with a report having been passed to the police.

"Blackpool Airport and Blackpool Council are outraged by this incident. We stand against racism of any kind and absolutely do not condone the activity, the message was offensive and the action reprehensible," he said via a statement.

"The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council. Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator's discretion.

"The incident was reported to the police yesterday evening [Monday] and the Civil Aviation Authority has been notified. Blackpool Airport are investigating the banner operator in question and further action will be taken by the board [on Wednesday].

"Following an emergency review this morning Blackpool Airport will suspend all banner towing operations at the airport with immediate effect and we would suggest that other airports should also consider this approach in light of what has happened at Blackpool."

Equality and inclusion group Kick It Out has also responded to the incident with a statement posted on Twitter.

"Fighting for equality requires addressing injustice – imbalances that plague our society and prevent everyone from receiving fair treatment," the statement read.

"The point of Black Lives Matter is not to diminish the importance of other people's lives. It is to address an imbalance and highlight that black people are denied certain human rights simply by virtue of the colour of their skin.

"It is about equality. We shall continue to support the Black Lives Matter and the fight for greater equality for all in football."

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