Guardiola hits out as BLM division grows
City manager hints at double standards over ribbon protest Spurs say movement has been ‘hijacked’ by politics
Pep Guardiola yesterday waded into the row over football’s support of Black Lives Matter by implying the authorities were guilty of double standards by banning his yellow ribbon for being too political.
Guardiola spoke out over the Football Association fining him for showing support for Catalan political prisoners after the Premier League confirmed players would continue to wear Black Lives Matter badges, despite mounting concern over the movement’s “far-Left ideology”.
Sky Sports and BT Sport said their presenters and pundits would be invited to follow suit after Jamie Redknapp and Kelly Cates joined Patrice Evra in refusing to don similar badges, and Gary Neville also appeared on screen without one during coverage of Manchester United’s win at Brighton on Tuesday night. Most of the Sky and BT presenters and pundits wore Black Lives Matter badges yesterday, although Jeff Stelling and Charlie Nicholas did not.
Sports organisations and their broadcast partners have been scrambling to distance themselves from the Black Lives Matter movement since its UK arm this week began criticising Israel, as well as promoting a wider policy of defunding the police and dismantling capitalism.
But the same organisations are refusing to ditch badges bearing its name, which they have insisted were never designed to promote a political agenda, but to show solidarity with the black community following the death in the United States of George Floyd.
Guardiola (below) was fined by the FA two years ago for wearing a yellow ribbon, despite Uefa allowing him to don it during Manchester City’s European matches.
Asked if the game’s support for Black Lives Matter had left him confused about what constituted a banned political symbol, he said: “It is a question for the Premier League and for the people who ban me.
“I think all the humanitarian causes must be defended and my yellow ribbon was for this, for the political prisoners who are still in jail – being judged 12, 13 years – for asking people to vote. So, I am not allowed to wear the yellow ribbon but, all the time, I bring and use the yellow ribbon, to use.”
Tottenham Hotspur became the first club to condemn Black Lives Matter UK’s public statements in response to a letter written by a Twitter user to their chairman, Daniel Levy, who is Jewish.
“It is unacceptable that a valuebased action is being hijacked by those with their own political agenda,” wrote the club’s executive director, Donna-Marie Cullen. Sanjay Bhandari, the chairman of Kick It Out, said that the Premier League’s association with Black Lives Matter may have “served its purpose” and it was time to focus on “sustained action”. Sky yesterday confirmed pundits Evra and Redknapp and presenter Cates had refused to wear a Black Lives Matter badge,
despite the latter two having previously done so.
Sky initially suggested Neville – who had previously donned the badge – had refused to wear it at the Amex before blaming a mix-up and saying he would don one while cocommentating on last night’s game between Chelsea and West Ham.
Fellow Sky pundit Matt Le Tissier this week announced he was considering refusing to wear the badge when challenged over Black Lives Matter’s “far-Left ideology” – although later said he would don it.
Black Lives Matter UK issued a barrage of tweets over Israel’s proposed annexation of the West Bank and claimed that “mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism”. The following day, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded calls to defund the police “nonsense”. Black Lives Matter UK responded by calling the country’s former director of public prosecutions “a cop in an expensive suit”.
All this has failed to change the Premier League’s minds about players wearing Black Lives Matter badges for the remainder of the season or taking the knee before matches, with a spokesman yesterday confirming both would continue. That was after it took the step 24 hours earlier of issuing a statement after Richard Masters, its chief executive, stressed its endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement was on “moral” and not political grounds.
It said: “We are aware of the risk posed by groups that seek to hijack popular causes and campaigns to promote their own political views. These actions are entirely unwelcome and rejected by the Premier League and all other professional football bodies, and they underline the importance of our sport coming together to declare a very clear position against prejudice. We want
our message to be a positive one that recognises football has the power to bring people together.”
Richard Masters also insisted that the support did not “set any particular precedent” and warned players and managers would still face punishment for unapproved political statements. Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, he denied opening the door for other forms of political activism, saying there was “a clear distinction between a moral cause and a political agenda”.
Sky and BT are understood to share the Premier League’s interpretation of its support for Black Lives Matter and the wearing of badges. The BBC said its football presenters and pundits had not worn the badges due to its rules on political impartiality.
Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn – who last week delivered a powerful speech after a “White Lives Matter Burnley” banner was flown over a match – appeared on air with one yesterday, while the network continued to carry the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter before advert breaks.
The BBC said its presenters and pundits had not worn the badges due to its rules on political impartiality.