Black Lives Matter badges were swapped for Kick It Out emblems by Sky Sports pundits yesterday after concerns were raised in football this week over the movement’s “political agendas”.
Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling and analysts Clinton Morrison, Paul Merson and Matt Le Tissier all sported the football-focused anti-discrimination group's badges. Morrison also wore a second badge, but it was not clear on footage whether this was an expression of support for BLM.
Le Tissier, the former Southampton and England forward, had been one of the first figures in the game to say he was “reviewing” whether to continue wearing the BLM badge due to the movement’s policy of “defunding the police and ending capitalism”.
He had previously donned the badge on Sky’s flagship programme along with Stelling, but later spoke to his employers about not wanting to promote a “far-left ideology”. Support for BLM has split opinion in the game this week, with Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Savage, Steve Sidwell and Jake Humphrey all continuing to express support on BT Sport coverage.
The Sky pundits preferred support for Kick It Out comes after Andros Townsend became the first Premier League player to distance himself from BLM. 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.
Premier League players, however, continued to wear badges bearing the BLM name, with Sky Sports and BT Sport allowing their presenters and pundits to make a personal choice. Townsend confronted the UK chapter of 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."
His club Crystal Palace issued a statement on their use of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” banners at Selhurst Park since the season resumed following the coronavirus crisis.
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”.
The MP has since said: "Why not have Kick It Out on the shirts? Nobody would complain about that.”
England's top tier has been showing solidarity with the black community, with players taking a knee at matches since the resumption last month. Black Lives Matter movement was thrust into the spotlight after the death of Mr Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.