Outrage at 'woke' calls for Manchester United and Manchester City to scrap club badges over 'slavery links'

20 April 2023, 22:25

Calls have been made for Manchester City and Manchester United to redesign their club crests
Calls have been made for Manchester City and Manchester United to redesign their club crests. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

A call for Manchester United and Manchester City to redesign their club badges over alleged links to the slave trade has sparked outrage among some fans.

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A journalist for the Guardian newspaper said the two cross-town rivals should rethink their badges because they represented Manchester's involvement with the slave-driven cotton trade, which hugely enriched the city in the industrial revolution.

Simon Hattenstone wrote: "The ship has nothing to do with football and everything to do with the business from which Manchester made its money.

"The product of slavery became so subtly embedded in our culture that we celebrated it in our club badges even without realising it."

But fans, politicians and historians have pushed back, pointing at Manchester's history of radicalism and arguing that the claims were "making a mountain out of a molehill".

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford in action on Thursday night
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford in action on Thursday night. Picture: Getty

Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, hit back at the article, saying: 'Manchester had nothing to do with the slave trade. People from the city at the time of the US Civil War in 1861 ­protested against slavery. This is one of the craziest campaigns I have ever seen. 

"I don't think there is any evidence that the ship on the Manchester coat of arms is anything to do with slavery, and I think the campaign of The Guardian is besmirching a rather proud history of radicalism that Manchester has got, right up to the present day, in terms of being way ahead of the game in terms of all sorts of anti-discriminatory policies." 

Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates after scoring on Wednesday
Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates after scoring on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

Manchester United historian Iain McCartney told MailOnline: "I think it is all akin to a mountain being made out of a molehill.

"Yes, the ship is there due to Manchester's heritage and yes, the cotton trade went a huge way to make Manchester what it was and what it is today. Yes again, the cotton is clearly linked to slavery.

"Slavery was a cruel thing, with countless numbers suffering one way or the other, there can be no denying that, but the cotton fields part of it is a thing of the past.

"It is from a bygone era when the world was totally different. People did make vast fortunes out of slavery, through cotton, sugar etc. I think that has as much to do with the thinking of many as the actual slavery itself.

"But should United, City and the city itself change their club crest and coat of arms to appease a few? I think not.'I don't think there is anyone who supports either club who has ever considered the badge as a link to slavery and refused to buy or wear anything with it on it.

"Neither will any player have refused to sign for one or the other because of the badge and its links to slavery. None would have given the matter a second thought or even been aware of it."

Harry Maguire of Manchester United
Harry Maguire of Manchester United. Picture: Getty

Some claimed there was no link whatsoever between the rivals' badges and the slave trade.

Historian Jonathan Schofield said: "It's a symbol of free trade. The idea is we will have equality throughout the world because people will have the same rights to do business with each other."

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Chef and Manchester United fan Jamie Parkhouse added: "People are rightly asking questions about the slave trade, but this shouldn't be one of them. The badge is about the Manchester Ship Canal and not slaves.

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City
Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City. Picture: Getty

"To link the badge and the slave trade is so over the top."

Mike Goldstein, a City fan, said: "It's just woke nonsense. You can't keep on going back. It'd be like being mad at the Italians for the Roman Empire."

It comes after the Guardian revealed its own historic links to the transatlantic slave trade.