Andros Townsend has become the first Premier League player to disown Black Lives Matter publicly after his club became the latest to attack the movement’s “political agendas”.
The Crystal Palace and England midfielder said on Thursday that the growing row over the campaign’s alleged “far-left ideology” was an “obstacle” to his and others’ efforts to show solidarity with the rest of the black community following the killing of George Floyd.
Townsend spoke out after Palace became the second club to criticise Black Lives Matter after the Premier League confirmed players would continue to wear badges bearing its name and Sky Sports and BT Sport said their presenters and pundits would be offered the opportunity to do the same.
Another day in which football and its broadcast partners grappled with how to separate the message ‘black lives matter’ from the movement also featured:
- Renewed calls from MPs for the Premier League to ditch the slogan
- Experts estimate Black Lives Matter will enjoy up to £25 million worth of free advertising from its adoption by the game
- The Football Association refusing to lift its ban on Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon
Townsend confronted Black Lives Matter’s divisive criticism of Israel head on as well as its promotion of policies such as defunding the police and ending capitalism – one of the leaders of the movement’s UK arm has also argued in favour of rioting.
“As far as I’m aware, we were never part of a political organisation or this organisation Black Lives Matter,” Townsend told TalkSport. “It was merely a phrase coined together. We want a black life to matter.
“It’s the phrase we want to use but we’re not in any way connected to the actual organisation. And I think that was clear from day one. But, for me, it’s always the case that when you’re trying to do good things, when you’re trying to help change the perception, there’s always going to be people who try to bring you down. This is just an obstacle.
“The Premier League have made it clear, and I’m sure that the Premier League captains will come out and make it clear, and we can move on and move forward in trying to make real change.”
Townsend, the son of Kick It Out head of development Troy Townsend, took to the airwaves after Palace issued a statement on their use of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” banners at Selhurst Park since the season resumed following the coronavirus crisis.
Saying they stood proudly behind the ideals and ethos of “black lives matter”, they added: “We would like to make clear that we do not endorse any pressure group or body that carries the same term in its name, and we strongly believe that organisations should not use this important force for change and positivity to push their own political agendas.”
The Premier League was warned about Black Lives Matter’s political agenda before the season even resumed with its slogan plastered over stadia and player’s shirts.
Ben Bradley MP, the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sport, wrote to its chief executive, Richard Masters, last month urging him not to support a movement that had “attacked police officers and war memorials”.
Bradley has now reiterated his opposition to football’s adoption of the slogan, insisting it was “impossible” to separate the movement from the message.
Citing another organisation accused of supporting violence, he said: “I couldn’t write Antifa on the back of my shirt and say it was because I was supporting anti-fascism campaigns but not the organisation, could I? It just doesn’t make sense. Why not have Kick It Out on the shirts? Nobody would complain about that.”
MPs grilled Masters over Black Lives Matter during a Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee hearing on Tuesday, prompting the Premier League to clarify the nature of its support for the cause.
But it failed to win over some of those MPs, including Giles Watling, who said: “I wasn’t convinced. Unfortunately, this particular movement has been hijacked.”
It is also enjoying up to £25m worth of free advertising as a result of football’s use of its slogan, according to Mike Flynn, founder and chief executive of sports and entertainment sponsorship agency DataPOWA.
Flynn, previously responsible for Carling’s sponsorship of the Premier League, said the combination of logos on shirts, banners in stands and hashtags on television screens – including free-to-air matches – may have cost that much on the open market for a quarter of a season’s exposure.
The FA, meanwhile has refused to lift its ban on Guardiola’s yellow ribbon after he implied it was guilty of double-standards by fining him for wearing it two years ago but then allowing Black Lives Matter logos on shirts.
Defending its decision to “offer our solidarity in promoting this important message of anti-discrimination”, the FA said: “The yellow ribbon was deemed a political symbol and therefore in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.”