Newcastle fan's controversial banner flies over Stadium of Light for last home game
A controversial banner raising money for children with cancer was flown over the Stadium of Light during the first half of today's match.
Organised by Newcastle fan Darren Curry, it bore the slogan: 'United by cancer, divided by leagues.'
The banner’s message is in support of SAFC fan Bradley Lowery, who is five and suffers from cancer neuroblastoma, and North East youngsters Frankie Sherwood and Hope Feeney, who are also battling cancer.
Many people on-line had criticised it as in bad taste, with the hashtag #stopthebanner used on Twitter by fans of both Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC to voice their opposition to the plan.
But a message posted to Bradley’s campaign Facebook page before the game supported the plan: "So it appears there has been a lot of controversy about the banner that is getting flown over the SOL today.
"I would just like to say we don’t feel the banner is offensive or insensitive, I can understand why some people feel it is not appropriate.
"However the only thing we thought of when we heard about the banner is it was very thoughtful of people to want to raise awareness and raise funds for Bradley, Frankie and Hope.”
The banner was organised in response to last year’s prank, carried out by Sunderland fans when Newcastle United were relegated to the Championship. Their banned read “Auf Wiedersehen Prem.”
Darren admitted he had taken a fair amount of abuse over the plan, but said the post from the Bradley campaign had taken a lot of the sting out of ity.
"I was feeling it a bit yesterday, but when that came out, it took the pressure off," he said.
"the family having their say made a big difference.
"In fairness, it was not the Sunderland fans, a lot of them were Newcastle fans who did not want to donate, did not want to have anything to do with it."
Darren was surprised by the sudden surge of protests in the 24 hours before the game, given how long plans for the fly-past had been public.
"One person put something on Twitter and it all went crazy," he said.
"I don't know why, because it's all been out there for a month. Everybody knew what the banner was going to say last week."
Speaking after the match, Bradley's mum Gemma said: "People are always going to have their own opinion on it, but I did not find it offensive, I did not find it insensitive.
"I found it kind of true - we have been united by cancer. Newcastle and Sunderland fans did pull together at a time when nthey nwould not have done, and they are divided by leagues now.
"I didn't have a problem with it."