England taking the knee: Why some fans say they are booing players
England players say they’re sick of talking about their decision to take the knee before the start of football games – but as some fans continue to boo the gesture, the issue’s threatening to distract from the start of Euro 2020.
There have been boos and jeers from some home fans as England players have taken a knee to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in warm-up games against Romania and Austria.
On Sunday the boos were soon drowned out by applause from thousands of other fans, but there are fears the uncomfortable start to the game could extend to the international stage at the Euros.
England will face Croatia in their first Euros fixture this weekend.
Where does taking the knee come from?
Colin Kaepernick started kneeling symbolically during the pre-game national anthem in the NFL in 2016, in protest at police violence against African-Americans in the United States.
And since last year, when the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the US, athletes taking the knee before fixtures has become a familiar sight.
Premier League and Championship teams started making the gesture last summer – something midfielder Raheem Sterling hailed at the time as a “massive step” towards tackling racism in football and beyond.
Why are some fans booing England?
Some of those opposed to people taking the knee have been accused of being opposed to racial equality.
But some players, teams and fans argue that the gesture has lost its impact.
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha said he felt taking the knee was “degrading”. One team has said it wants to focus on other ways of promoting racial equality, and another has said it feels the effect of the gesture has become “diluted”.
“Booing is a way football fans can communicate dissatisfaction,” says Andrew, a football fan in his 40s who was at both England games this week – and joined in the booing when players took the knee.
Andrew, who is based in Lincoln, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat he booed to show his objection to what he sees as “an identity politics agenda that focuses on black people and skin colour, when as far as I am concerned we are all England fans regardless of colour”.
“Some seem to genuinely believe booing is an act of racism – I reject that,” he adds.
Other fans say the “political” gesture of taking the knee is detracting from the sport.
“If I want to watch politics, I’d switch on Westminster Live,” one Twitter user says.
Not all of those who oppose taking the knee are anonymous social media users.
Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith wrote on Facebook at the weekend that taking the knee “now comes across as little more than habitual tokenism and has lost its effect”.
He added that “the mixing of politics and football had disastrous consequences” and questioned whether players “really want to carry the political baggage that comes with taking the knee”.
The MP said he would be keeping his TV switched off up until the starting whistle of England’s games, and during half-time, in protest at those taking the knee.
What does the England team say?
Manager Gareth Southgate has pleaded with fans to stop jeering his team and says those booing “aren’t understanding the message”.
But some supporters of the booers were further riled by Southgate saying his players will ignore any “adverse reaction” to them taking the knee.
“So ok for players to make a point, & fans aren’t entitled too?” one said on Twitter.
As for the players, they’re united behind Southgate’s determination to keep taking the knee at the Euros – even if the booing continues.
Speaking after Sunday’s game, goal-scorer Marcus Rashford said: “We believe it is the right thing to do so we will continue to do it.”
Centre-back Tyrone Mings has previously said the best thing about the booing has been “the applause to drown it out”.
Midfielder Jordan Henderson told Sky Sports on Sunday that many of his team mates are “sick of talking about” England’s decision to keep taking the knee.
© The Fan Experience Company 2020