England manager Gareth Southgate says the act of taking a knee is still hugely powerful and called on players to continue making the gesture to keep the fight against racial inequality and injustice at the forefront of people’s minds.
Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC), the UK’s largest anti-racism charity which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has released an educational film discussing the reasons behind the gesture and why they feel it should continue.
A survey by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) in December found there was an overwhelming support by professional players to continue taking a knee before kick-off.
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However, a number of football clubs such as QPR and Brentford, along with other sporting organisations and individuals, have decided they will stop taking a knee before their fixtures or events, as they believe it is no longer having an impact in the fight against racism and discrimination in sport.
As part of SRtRC’s film, England manager Southgate joins other high-profile figures in football to argue why taking a knee is still impactful, effective and necessary. He does not accept the notion that the gesture has become diluted since its introduction.
“Every player that does is very clear that the protest is against the lack of opportunity, it is anti-racism, it is supporting our team-mates and staff that work with us,” Southgate said.
“It is a unifying act every time I see it, although I heard people saying it is becoming less impactful, I didn’t feel that because every time I go to a game and I see it I think it is hugely powerful.”
Former QPR, West Ham and Fulham forward Leroy Rosenior, now the charity’s vice president, insists that football must persist with the message behind taking a knee to keep it in the front of people’s minds.
“I know some people say it has run out of steam taking a knee and it is now not as impactful. I would say that we need to keep it in our conscience and at the front of our minds.
“It needs to be a thread that runs through everything that we do. Even if it has lost its initial impact, it keeps it at the forefront of people’s minds. We cannot take our eye off the ball.”
‘People have been misinformed about what Black Lives Matter represents’
Livingston midfielder Marvin Bartley and Derby County assistant coach Liam Rosenior both say there is an effort to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement and the change those involved are trying to affect.
Rosenior was present at the Millwall vs Derby fixture last year where home supporters booed players who took a knee before kick-off.
He said: “I was at Millwall when supporters booed the players for taking a knee. There was talk afterwards on why they were booing, it was political and not racial they said.
“But the reason they were booing was that they had been fed complete misinformation about the Black Lives Matter movement and what it represents. It represents unity, it doesn’t represent [a political agenda] or violence and looting in the streets.”
Bartley echoes Rosenior’s argument. “When people disagree with something, they will try to spin a story that makes others think like them,” he said.
“When people are moaning about it, my answer to them is this: ‘You’re sick of players taking the knee, which is 10 seconds before a game, I’m sick of racism’.”
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