MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, said he supported the move to have the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ on player’s shirts in this week’s games, saying it represented an ethical stance rather than a political one.
The Premier League resumes on Wednesday, and teams will have logos supporting the National Health Service on the front of their shirts and the words Black Lives Matter replacing their names above the number on their backs.
“I support them in using their platforms to push good causes. The messages you are going to see coming through the Premier League matches in relation to thanking the NHS, with the ‘Heart NHS’ logo on the front of shirts and also the anti-discrimination messages coming forward, are issues that all players feel,” Masters told Sky Sports on Tuesday.
“I think it is a good thing that players are using their voices to make what I think are ethical value judgements rather than political statements. They are supposed to be unifying messages, and we support them and so do the clubs,” he added.
Until recently, the Premier League has had a policy opposing political statements being made on the field, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was fined by the Football Association in March for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of jailed Catalan independence leaders.
Asked on a conference call with reporters whether he was concerned that the green light for political messages might lead to controversy in the future over other issues, Masters said: “I don’t have all the answers, but I think we are living in unique times, so what we are doing today feels like an appropriate response to where the world finds itself and the Premier League and players’ voices on the issues.
“Whether it creates uncomfortable precedents going forward, we will wait and see,” he added.
Masters said backing Black Lives Matter needed to be followed up by concrete policies - but he added that the Premier League has no plans to introduce a US-style rule to ensure members of minorities are interviewed for any vacant coaching positions.
“Whatever the campaign messages might be, the promotion as it were, there needs to be significant policies and programmes behind it that are making a difference. There is a strong and long-standing commitment from the Premier League and all our clubs to anti-discrimination. We are going to continue to listen to players,” he said.
But asked about the “Rooney Rule” operating in the U.S. National Football League (NFL) stipulating that members of minorities be interviewed for vacant coaching positions, he said: “We haven’t discussed that, and we haven’t got any plans to do so.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson