England players continuing to take the knee in the spotlight
As we approach the highly anticipated game between England and Germany on Tuesday, the England players continuing to take the knee has very much been in the spotlight.
Over the last year, footballers across the English Football League have taken a knee ahead of all matches to send a united message about racism following the powerful global influence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Football Association urges supporters to respect taking the knee
Before England kicked off their Euro 2020-21 campaign against Croatia, the FA released an official statement the day before urging supporters not to boo the team for taking an anti-racism stand and asking fans to respect all the players taking the knee and stand in solidarity with them to show their support in the fight against discrimination, injustice and inequality. However, sadly, the gesture was met with a few boos from a minority of the 22,500 spectators in attendance.
Aratrust supports the England Manager, Gareth Southgate, and some high-profile England players coming out explaining the reasons for taking the knee and showing why this is bigger than football itself.
Gareth Southgate, in an open letter in The Players’ Tribune, reflected honestly on the contribution that the players can have as a role models and on wider society believing that the team should not just ‘stick’ to Football, stating:
“I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold. At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager. I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players. It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate”.
United front against racism
Aratrust supports this united front which has been followed up by the likes of Jordan Henderson who said:
“I think, as players, we’ve made it very clear that we all stand together against racism. That’s the reason that we continue to take the knee, and have done over the last few weeks. I think the lads are starting to feel like they don’t really want to talk about it anymore“.
Tyrone Mings, one of the most vocal figures in the Premier League on tackling racism and discrimination in the game added, “We have said all that we can say as players and whether that message gets through to the minority or not is something we should not ever give up on – trying to get that message across”. https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/england-take-the-knee-why-players-meaning-footballers-fans-booing-gesture-explained-1043056
What’s the history of ‘taking the knee’?
On 1 February 1965, Martin Luther King Jnr, the American civil rights activist, took a knee while leading a prayer outside the Dallas County Alabama Courthouse, along with several other civil rights marchers. The march was held over the right to vote.
Kneeling has an even longer history in the Black rights movements. A drawing from the 1780s of an enslaved black man became an emblem of the British abolitionist movement in the 1800s. The image went on to be circulated for years.
“Am I not a man and a brother,” reads a scroll along the bottom of the drawing, which shows the shackled man kneeling. Kneeling has been described as articulating the promise and desire of freedom from oppression.
In 2016, kneeling rose to prominence through the actions of American NFL player, Colin Kaepernick who knelt during the US national anthem at the beginning of an NFL game to bring worldwide attention to direct and systemic racism by a country, he said, which “oppresses black people and people of colour “.
The backlash explained
In a sentiment shared by Aratrust, anti-racist football organisation Kick It Out’s Chief Executive, Tony Burnett, discussed the England players taking the knee and why there was still some backlash from some of the supporters saying:
“I don’t think that’s about taking the knee. I think this started when Brexit kicked off. The hatred, polarisation and binary positions people took up from then has carried on. What’s caused this is government behaviour, government attitudes towards race, failure to tackle racism at a national level and allowing organisations and sports like football to get away with it for years“.
Aratrust believes this rings even more true when, in the early part of the year, a government-commissioned report, overwhelmingly rejected by anti-racist organisations, trade unions and prominent individuals, staggeringly came to the conclusion that ‘geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have a more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism’.
On an ending note, we share Tyrone Mings’s thoughts on his twitter post on the last day of the Premier League season, which are even more important now, when he asserted:
“To anyone that booed us taking the knee, have a look at yourself and ask if you truly support equality and equal opportunity for the black players on the pitch. It’s tiring. Educate yourself”.