A Manchester United Fanzine, Red Issue, featured a Ku Klux Klan mask on the cover of their magazine before United's game against Liverpool on Saturday.
In addition to the mask, the cover contained the words Suarez is innocent. The fanzine was referencing an incident last October when Liverpool's Luiz Suarez was accused of calling United's Patrice Evra negro, several times during the game. Suarez was suspended for the incident.
Police were informed and they seized many copies of the fanzine as well as prevented it from being sold or distributed near the stadium. In England, as in much of Europe, there are laws preventing hateful or racist speech in public.
This comes just a week after photos of a supposed KKK march through East London went viral on Twitter and Facebook.
KKK membership in the United States was 4 million in 1920 but has flagged to an estimated 5,000-8,000 today. Very few Klan chapters have ever existed outside of America, and none has ever been active in Europe so these events are probably a coincidence. But, two Klan related incidents in a week raises questions.
Despite the obvious poor taste and the subsequent police crackdown, the publishers of the fanzine say it was all a joke that has been taken out of context. They are now sparring with the Manchester police in the pages of the Manchester Evening News.
It was just to poke a bit of fun at Suarez and Liverpool. It's not racist and I don't think it would stir anything up. It's just complete nonsense, said J.P. O'Neil, a spokesman for Red Issue. The police totally overstepped the line - there's no suggestion of racial hatred. People could go out of business because of this, potentially, and it's a freedom of speech issue as well. I don't see who it would offend. There's been no complaint from United, Liverpool or any of the Liverpool fans so it's pre-emptive action.
But the police are defending their actions. Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts, the on scene commander during the match said that the police acted because they considered the image to be offensive.
The consequences of taking no action could have resulted in public order incidents inside or outside the ground, he said.
Things did not improve inside the stadium when Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand before the game, though he has since apologized for that decision.