Aston Villa has dismissed suggestions that some of its players were involved in a protest against the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Fulham at Craven Cottage.
A number of players across the Premier League declined to wear the group’s T-shirts before their matches, but Villa insists claims in the Mail on Sunday that its side removed the clothing “early” and threw them to the ground “in disgust” are “inaccurate, misleading and distorted.”
“All Aston Villa players took to the pitch for the pre-game warm-up on Saturday wearing Kick It Out T-shirts," the club said in a statement. “As is usual practice the players were split into two groups during that warm-up to play possession football; in order to be distinguishable one group removed their Kick It Out T-shirts.
“The players who removed their t-shirts for this reason were Brett Holman, Joe Bennett, Fabian Delph, Darren Bent and Nathan Baker. This was not a protest. There was no controversy. No player threw their shirt to the ground "in disgust."
“Aston Villa are particularly disappointed with this irresponsible journalism, given that the journalist in question had the full facts of the matter at his disposal before this article went to press: he even asked a question regarding the issue at Saturday's post-match press conference.”
The club went on to provide a transcript of the journalist asking Villa manager Paul Lambert about the incident, and the Scot’s explanation that it was not a players protest.
Anton Ferdinand was one of several Premier League players who boycotted the promotional campaign of the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign over the weekend. The QPR defender joined some of his teammates in declining to wear a T-shirt before his side’s 1-1 draw with Everton on Sunday.
The 27-year-old was the victim of a racial insult by former England captain John Terry last season, and the Chelsea skipper recently accepted a four-game ban and 220,000-pound fine relating to the incident.
Terry’s former teammate Shaun Wright-Phillips as well as fellow R’s attacker Junior Hoilett warmed up before the game without wearing the T-shirt, with Everton’s Victor Anichebe also making a stand.
Anton Ferdinand’s brother, Rio, was publicly slated by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson after he declined to wear the T-shirt before Manchester United’s match with Stoke on Saturday. Reading striker Jason Roberts and Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott also refused to publicly support the campaign before their fixtures on Saturday.