Guardi­ola hits out as BLM di­vi­sion grows

City man­ager hints at dou­ble stan­dards over rib­bon protest Spurs say move­ment has been ‘hi­jacked’ by pol­i­tics

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Ben Rumsby, James Ducker and Bill Gardner

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.

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