soccer

Premier League players no longer kneel before every game

While Premier League footballers will continue to kneel in protest against racism this season, they said on Wednesday that the gesture will no longer be made at every game.

For example, players will kneel at this weekend’s Premier League season openers and again on Boxing Day (December 26); during two racism awareness weeks in October and March, on the last day of the season and before the FA Cup and League Cup finals.

“We remain resolutely committed to eradicating racial prejudice and creating an inclusive society with respect and equal opportunities for all.” the captains said in a Premier League statement. Players said they believed the gesture would have more impact if it was done less often.

Premier League players began kneeling for a few seconds after the opening whistle when matches resumed after the pandemic in June 2020. The protest coincided with Black Lives Matter protests in the US and the aftermath of the 2020 police shooting of George Floyd. Minneapolis.

The gesture was inspired by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other American athletes who had taken a knee before games or during the national anthem, and was widely adopted by leagues and sports in Europe and elsewhere. Players from dozens of teams have knelt before international matches, and women’s teams – though not all – did the same at the recently concluded Euro 2022 Women’s Championship, which ended on Sunday.

Premier League players had continued to kneel before every game, and so have players in England’s lower leagues.

The gesture drew praise in some quarters. “I feel empowered every time the players go down and show solidarity,” said Troy Townsend, director of development for Kick It Out, a nonprofit that promotes equality and inclusion in soccer. But some black players dismissed it as a mostly empty gesture that didn’t bring about real change. Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who grew up in England but plays for the Ivory Coast national team, quit on his knees in early 2021. He said the protest “has just become part of the pre-game routine.”

The knee has occasionally caught the fancy, both in England and more often when English teams travel abroad. England fans were taunted by some of their own supporters before the games leading up to last summer’s European Championship.

And in June, when England’s players knelt before a game in Hungary, they were jeered by a crowd made up mainly of under-14s; most adults were banned due to racist chants from Hungarian fans at earlier games.

Kneeling was not universal either. Many teams from other countries did not kneel before games, which provided an sometimes inappropriate sight in the Champions League and international matches: players from English teams and clubs were on one knee before kick-off, while their opponents stood just yards away, waiting for them to get up. so the game could begin.

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