Premier League players want to distance themselves from the official UK wing of the Black Lives Matter organisation amid concerns over its ideology and political ambitions.
Sportsmail can reveal that the issue has been discussed by several players, with the group of top-flight captains considering whether to make a public statement on the matter.
The players’ call to endorse the sentiment behind the Black Lives Matter movement – the need for action to ensure greater equality and an expression of solidarity with those who have suffered persecution because of their race – was instrumental in persuading the Premier League to make the campaign such a visible part of Project Restart.
Players want to distance themselves from the official Black Lives Matter organisation
Premier League stars donned ‘Black Lives Matter’ playing shirts when the top-flight resumed
Every game since the resumption has been prefaced by players and match officials taking a knee in tribute to George Floyd, while the partner of Watford captain Troy Deeney designed a BLM logo which features on the shirts of all 20 Premier League clubs.
While the players remain united in campaigning for equality and committed to maintaining such symbolic gestures for the remainder of the season, some are concerned about being associated with the political activism of Black Lives Matter UK. In the last few days, the official BLM UK Twitter account has caused controversy by calling for the overthrow of capitalism, reductions in police funding and an end to free trade with Israel.
Former Wolves midfielder Karl Henry criticised BLM UK on social media on Tuesday as a divisive organisation, while Sky Sports pundit Matt Le Tissier said he would review his decision to wear a BLM badge in comments that have sparked a debate among players.
Karl Henry criticised BLM UK on social media on Tuesday – calling them a divisive organisation
‘I think the majority of the UK have now had enough of that organisation,’ wrote Henry on Twitter. ‘A new inclusive and politically neutral anti-racism movement to follow and get behind is much needed. Black people’s lives matter! The divisive #BlackLivesMatter organisation, however, DOES NOT.’
The Premier League have not provided any funding to BLM UK and chief executive Richard Masters told MPs on Tuesday that his organisation remain apolitical.
Appearing before a select committee of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Masters attempted to draw a distinction between moral and political causes, although this position was criticised by Sunderland MP Julie Elliott, who accused him of ‘opening a can of worms’.
The Premier League and the FA prohibit participants in the game from making political statements, with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fined two years ago by the latter for wearing a ribbon in support of Catalan independence.
Richard Masters told MPs on Tuesday that the Premier League remain apolitical
‘I don’t think it sets any particular precedent,’ Masters insisted. ‘I think it’s perfectly possible to support Black Lives Matter without being seen to be supporting any political organisation.
‘We’re happy to support the players. We think it’s the right moment to do it and for the first time I feel that players, managers, Premier League and clubs are on the same page on the issue of discrimination. That feels like a positive step.
‘We’re drawing a clear distinction between a moral cause and a political movement.
‘While there may be some difficulty sometimes in dividing the two, our position is clear. Politics no, moral causes yes – when agreed. We’re living in special times at the moment.’