June 23, 2020 / 4:52 PM / 11 days ago

Airport suspends banner towing after 'White Lives Matter' incident

(Reuters) - Police were making enquiries and a local airport suspended banner-towing operations on Tuesday after a plane flew over Manchester City’s stadium trailing the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ at the start of a Premier League game on Monday.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Burnley - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - June 22, 2020 A "White Lives Matter Burnley" banner is seen tied to a plane above the stadium, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Shaun Botterill/Pool via REUTERS

The incident caused widespread offence, occurring shortly after players and officials took a knee in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

Burnley said in a statement on the club website that those responsible for the incident faced lifetime bans, in line with a zero tolerance stance on discrimination of any form.

Stephen Smith, manager of Blackpool Airport to the north-west of Manchester, said the airport and local council stood against racism and had been outraged by what happened.

“The message was offensive and the action reprehensible. 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,” he said in a statement.

“Blackpool Airport are investigating the banner operator in question and further action will be taken by the Board tomorrow,” he added.

“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.”

Lancashire police said in a statement that they were making enquiries about the incident which occurred at the start of Manchester City’s 5-0 win over Burnley.

“We will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place,” said Chief Superintendent Russ Procter.

The Premier League has joined the international movement to protest racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody last month.

All of the players in the 12 Premier League games since the restart of the season after the COVID-19 stoppage have worn ‘Black Lives Matter’ on their shirts in place of their names.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis

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