For more than a year now, players in the English Premier League have been “taking a knee” just before kickoff. The gesture, an outgrowth of the George Floyd affair, is supposed to signal opposition to racism. In every EPL match I’ve seen, all 22 players have gone along with it.
It’s not clear why anyone should kneel to protest racism. The gesture strikes me as either meaningless or a nod to Colin Kaepernick, who gained fame for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem before NFL games some years ago. Kaepernick is a far-leftist who hates America.
To be clear, I have nothing against English soccer players kneeling before kickoff, if that’s what they want to do. However, it seems obvious that not every player has wanted to kneel before every match for more than a year.
The law of averages tells us this. Similar evidence comes from fans who boo the gesture. The booing has diminished considerably, probably due to pressure, but it persists. Obviously, some segment of the English population hates the gesture. Therefore, some segment of the playing population must not be fond of it.
Earlier this month, Marco Alonso, a Spaniard and long-time Chelsea player, broke ranks. He declined to take a knee before Chelsea’s match against Aston Villa. Instead, he pointed to a badge on his jersey that says “no to racism.” The wing-back did the same thing in Chelsea’s next match.
Pointing to the “no to racism” slogan is a more direct way of expressing opposition to the hateful phenomenon. It’s a straightforward statement and cannot be construed to show support for any other agenda. It also avoids any hint of submission.
Nonetheless, Alonso has been criticized for the move. This article by some politically correct writer rakes the Spaniard over the coals for not consulting his black teammates. “How, for example, would Romelu Lukaku — who celebrated his first goal for Inter Milan after the Black Lives Matter protests, in June last year, against Sampdoria, with a lowered knee and raised fist — have reacted?,” the writer asks.
I’m a huge Lukaku fan, and not just because of his feats for Everton. Big Rom is worthy of great respect.
But Alonso is his own man with his own views about combatting racism. He had no obligation to seek permission from Lukaku or anyone else, and should not be criticized for declining to do so.
Deep into the Athletic’s article, we learn that several black players are tired of the kneeling gesture. Among them are Wilfred Zaha, the outrageously talented Crystal Palace man, and Ivan Toney, an emerging star for Brentford.
Players at Quuens Park Rangers in England’s second soccer tier stopped kneeling last season. Les Ferdinand, an EPL legend and currently QPR’s director of football, explained:
Taking the knee was very powerful but we feel that impact has now been diluted. Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game — actions will.
“Sir Les” is Black.
Taking a knee was never going to bring about change. I hope more EPL players, Black and White, will stop feeling compelled to kneel.