Burnley fans have created a fundraiser for a charity which supports the black community in response to the “white lives matter” banner which flew over the club’s game on Monday night.
Police are investigating after a plane passed over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester carrying the message “White Lives Matter Burnley” just after kick-off between Manchester City and Burnley.
Lifelong Clarets fan Lee Briggs set up the fundraiser, which is raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, after feeling embarrassed by his club being associated with the banner’s “racist language”.
The 33-year-old, who works in the IT sector, is matching all donations up to £600 – the reported cost of the plane message – and so far just over that amount has been raised.
“I wanted to counteract that message that Burnley fans are racist and try to show there are good sides to the club,” Mr Briggs told the PA news agency.
“I was very proud of the message the club put out and what Ben Mee had to say.”
Burnley issued a strong statement condemning the banner during half-time against Manchester City, and captain Ben Mee spoke passionately about the incident after the match.
Mr Briggs grew up in Sutton-in-Craven, a North Yorkshire village near Burnley, and had a season ticket at Turf Moor.
He relocated to London when he was 20 and then to Seattle, Washington, in the US three years ago, where he was watching Monday’s match on national broadcaster NBC Sports Network.
“I was in disbelief… I was embarrassed that the club I loved and supported since I was a kid would be associated with racist language on national television in the US,” said Mr Briggs.
“Here in Seattle, I have seen the effects of institutional racism and the recent protests happening here.
“No one is arguing white lives don’t matter, what we are saying is right now the troubles and strife of the black community are more important to focus on – that’s why people are saying Black Lives Matter.”
Mr Briggs added that Burnley has “a lot to be proud of” as a club, but that more needs to be done to stamp out racism at its ground.
“I am really proud of being a Burnley fan because I think it stands for football at its purest – the game rather than the money,” he said.
“Having said that I have personally interacted with fans who have troubling views on race and ethnicity.”
Mr Briggs said he witnessed a racist incident at Burnley’s game against Manchester United in December, which he went to with his twin brother Steven and his six-year-old nephew Raylan.
“That’s unacceptable,” Mr Briggs said.
“The club has a lot to be proud of but it needs to do much much more in its efforts to stamp out racism.
“I’m not singling out the club at all – its response was very swift and condemning – football fans, in general, need to really assess what’s currently happening in the world.”