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SPORTS

Burnley fan behind ‘White Lives Matter' banner sacked

FOOTBALL By Mirror | June 25th 2020
A plane towing a banner reading White Lives Matter Burnley flies above the stadium during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, England, Monday, June 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Shaun Botterill]

One of the Burnley fans behind the White Lives Matter banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium has been sacked from his job.

Jake Hepple worked as a welder at Paradigm Precision in Lancashire, but has been dismissed for taking responsibility for the stunt, which occurred on Monday night, as Manchester City played host to Burnley in the Premier League.

The company said it "did not condone or tolerate racism in any form".

Hepple told MailOnline: "I'm not racist. I know people are trying to make out to be one but I'm not. I've got lots of black and Asian friends and this banner was actually inspired by the Black Lives Movement.

"We were not trying to offend the movement or black people.

"I believe that it's also important to acknowledge that white lives matter too. That's all we were trying to say."

He added: "My employer, the club and so many other people have completely overreacted to what's happened."

The sacking comes as Hepple's girlfriend Megan Rambadt was also dismissed by her employer Solace Foot Health and Reflexology over alleged racist posts.

A statement from the firm read: "It was brought to our attention that one of our employees has been publicly posting and tweeting comments of an abhorrently racist nature.

"It came as quite a shock to us as the lady in question has never shown, insinuated or acted in any way that would suggest she could have such feelings and beliefs...

"We would like to thank the person who brought these comments to our attention and assure you that we will deal with this situation internally."

It added: "Earlier we posted a statement saying we were willing to try and help Megan by paying for Intensive Racial Sensitivity training despite knowing that Solace's reputation would come into question.

"After several conversations with Megan tonight however we have all decided that what is best for Megan and best for Solace is to end her employment with immediate effect."

Hepple took responsibility for the banner, which was seen in the skies above the Etihad shortly after players from both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and refused to apologise for his actions.

He claims that 60 people helped organise the offensive stunt.

The fan shared a video of the plane to his Facebook page. Alongside it, he wrote: "I'd like to take this time to apologise... TO ABSOLUTELY F****** NOBODY! It's now apparently racist to say white lives matter."

Burnley have banned Hepple from their Turf Moor ground for life.

Lancashire Police confirmed on Tuesday night that no action would be taken against the Burnley fan.

Chief Superintendent Russ Procter said: "Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the 'White Lives Matter' banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium last night.

"After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time.

"We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority."

The banner has received wide-spread criticism, with English football's anti-racism charity Kick It Out explaining how the message completely misses the point of the Black Lives Matter initiative.

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari told PA: "The point of Black Lives Matter is not to diminish the importance of other people's lives.

"It is to highlight that black people are being denied certain human rights simply by virtue of the colour of their skin. It is about equality.

"We shall continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for greater equality for all in football."

 

 

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