Jake Hepple is the man who says that he paid for a banner reading “White Lives Matter Burnley” to be flown over the Etihad Stadium during Manchester City’s English Premier League game with Burnley.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the phrase “White Lives Matter” first appeared as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement that had begun to garner massive publicity in 2014. The ADL’s website entry for the phrase says that it has been widely promoted by groups such as the Aryan Renaissance Society. The Aryan Renaissance Society is a Texas-based white supremacist organization.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Burnley Captain Ben Mee Has Said His Team Are ‘Ashamed’ of the Banner
Burnley Football Club has issued a statement saying that the person or persons found responsible for flying the banner will be banned from the club’s stadium for life. The club also said that they will work with authorities in order to identify the culprit.
The statement read in part, “The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind.”
Following the game, Burnley captain Ben Mee told the BBC, “We’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed. It’s a minority of our supporters – I know I speak for a massive part of our support who distance ourselves from anything like that. It definitely had a massive impact on us to see that in the sky.” Burnley wound up losing the game 5-0. Burnley coach Sean Dyche called the banner “clearly unacceptable.”
2. Hepple Said He Would Like to ‘Apologise to Absolutely F***ing Nobody’
According to the Daily Mail, Hepple has taken responsibility for the banner with a Facebook post that reads, “I’d like to take this time to apologise .. TO ABSOLUTELY F****** NOBODY! It’s not apparently racist to say white lives matter )the day after 3 white people got murdered in a park in Reading, but all we’ve seen on the tell is black lives matter after George Floyd got murdered) what a mad world we live in.”
On his Facebook page, Hepple says that he is from Burnley, Lancashire and that he works at Paradigm Precision. The company describes themselves as “the premier global independent provider of complex machining, fabrications and assemblies primarily for gas turbine engines.” The company is based in Connecticut.
3. Hepple Had Social Media Posts Showing His Admiration for Anti-Islam Activist Tommy Robinson
Hepple had multiple photos on his now-deleted Instagram page showing him with British anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson. Other posts on that page show Hepple’s admiration for Robinson. Robinson also had multiple posts showing his admiration for former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. Among the most recent posts on Hepple’s page was a photo of the late Lee Rigby. Rigby, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was attacked and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, in May 2013. Shortly after his death, Rigby’s family rejected “extremist” groups using his name “as an excuse” for attacks, reported Channel 4 News at the time.
4. Hepple’s Girlfriend Has Complained That Burnley Is ‘Like a Foreign Country’
Hepple’s long-term girlfriend paid tribute to the Burnley fan in a March 2019 tweet on her now-deleted page. She wrote:
Don’t usually put personal stuff but tell ya what me an jake have fair been through it and not once have we moaned cos it’s what u do in a relationship u just crack on, build a bridge an get over it. And if u can’t do that then your not made for each other. @BfcHepple love ya.
In December 2018, Hepple’s girlfriend tweeted that her hometown of Burnley was “pretty grim” as the town’s center “is like a foreign country.” In a reply to a comment to that tweet, Hepple’s girlfriend said that she felt immigrants should be sent back to their country of origin on their “banana boats.” Hepple’s girlfriend’s cover image on that page showed her with her boyfriend and Liam Gallagher. Hepple’s girlfriend works at a foot health and reflexology clinic in Burnley. In a bio on that page, Hepple’s girlfriend writes, “In my spare time I love spending it with my boyfriend, family and friends. I enjoy going to the gym, walking and socializing.
5. Burnley Has Been a Hotbed of Right-Wing Political Activity in the Past
In 2002, the British National Party, a far-right political party, won their first elections in the town of Burnley. By 2003, the BNP had 10 councilors in the town. In writing about the BNP’s successes in 2012 The Guardian’s Daniel Trilling described Burnley as a town that “has a declining population: it is a town of emigration, not immigration.”