An article in legacy media newspaper The Guardian today claimed the ships on the club’s crests were slave transports.
The article, penned by journalist Simon Hattenstone, received backlash from politicians, business leaders and fans alike, in a rare show of unity between the rival clubs.
The Daily Mail accused Hattenstone and his supporters of the being the ‘Woke Brigade’.
Hattenstone claimed the ships were a legacy of Manchester’s slave-trade past. Both crests are based on the Coat of Arms of the City of Manchester, which also features a three-masted sailing vessel.
Manchester United club historian JP Neil said, ‘His (Hattenstone’s) ‘logic’ is as ridiculous as it is contradictory. Not only did the club badges long post-date the abolition of slavery, the clubs themselves were only founded decades after slavery was ended. The first ship to arrive in Manchester came in 1894 with the opening of the Ship Canal. In Manchester, cotton workers during the American Civil War refused to work with slave-picked cotton, putting their livelihoods at risk.’
Slavery officially ended in the United States with the passing by Congress of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in January 1865. It was abolished in the UK in 1807. The ship first featured on Manchester United’s crest in 1902, and on City’s in 1894. It is commonly held the ship represents Manchester’s role as a global trading power during the Industrial Revolution.
Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, Graham Stringer, said the crest controversy was ‘one of the craziest campaigns I’ve ever seen.’
‘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.’
Neither club has commented to date.