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Don't blame the players: Burnley skipper Ben Mee criticizes UK government over coronavirus comments

Don't blame the players: Burnley skipper Ben Mee criticizes UK government over coronavirus comments
Burnley captain Ben Mee has hit out at the government and the media, accusing them of portraying professional footballers as villains during the coronavirus crisis.

Britain's health minister Matt Hancock said last week that Premier League players must "play their part" and accept a pay cut during the suspension of play in England to ensure the clubs' non-playing staff did not need to be furloughed.

The statement was instantly slammed by former England captain Wayne Rooney, who claimed Hancock's words represented a "desperate" attempt to shift the public focus onto the highly-paid stars of the Premier League, rather than on the government's much-criticized handling of the nation's response to the pandemic.

Mee concurred with Rooney's comments, writing in The Guardian, "The criticism of footballers from those in the media and government has been unhelpful.

"Bad press comes with the territory of being in a high-profile profession - these things make for easier headlines than the constant community and charitable work we do all over the globe.

"But as we've worked hard to do our part, those headlines have created a distraction, needlessly trying to make villains out of footballers, rather than... praising the great work of key workers who are putting themselves at risk to help others."

Premier League stars have collaborated to launch a fund to help raise money for National Health Service charities during the pandemic, and Mee said that, contrary to the image often portrayed of them in the media, most of the game's big stars are working-class people from a working-class background and are keen to help their communities.

"There has been great collective urgency to help in any way possible, while at the same time ensuring our funds are directed to the places that are most needed," Mee added.

"Naturally, such a complex matter needs time to sort, but our frank discussions always had the same purpose: to help in any way we can.

"Every player has a story of how coronavirus has impacted upon their country and many are sending money back to their own nations, which is the right thing to do."

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