A survey carried out by the Professional Footballers’ Association has shown overwhelming support from players to continue taking a knee.
The questionnaire followed a series of incidents where fans booed the anti-racism gesture, and aimed to find out how clubs, players and staff best wanted to spread the message of equality in the sport.
The results of the survey, which was sent to all Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and Women’s Super League (WSL) squads, illustrated that players ‘support continuing this act of solidarity despite any adverse responses that may be received’.
The gesture shows support for Black Lives Matter but some critics, including one government minister, have linked BLM with far-left political beliefs.
Professional players, however, have unequivocally given their backing to continue taking the knee as a ‘a peaceful act of unity’ that is ‘not an endorsement of any political position’.
A PFA survey has shown overwhelmingly support from footballers to continue taking a knee
Players ‘support continuing this act of solidarity despite any adverse responses’, say the PFA
Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling (right) takes the knee earlier this week
THE SURVEY QUESTIONS
- Do you want to take the knee as a squad?
- Do you want to take the knee individually?
- If the knee is shown resistance by fans do you think it should be reconsidered?
- Would you welcome an alternative to taking a knee?
- If so, please give details?
A PFA statement said: ‘Throughout 2020, PFA members have demonstrated a strong understanding of the societal issues raised across the world and have used their platform to highlight the impact racism has on both individuals and wider communities.
‘The decision to take the knee before matches was initially made by Premier League captains during Project Restart, to show solidarity with Black people facing discrimination globally.
‘This powerful symbol of solidarity represents the players’ commitment to anti-racism and is not an endorsement of any political position. It is a peaceful act of unity that highlights a persistent and systemic issue.’
The PFA did take a swipe at the EFL for a ‘lack of leadership’ over the issue and explained that they had made it difficult for players across the three divisions in the Football League by not making the gesture mandatory and instead leaving it to the discretion of individual clubs.
‘While the Premier League has already committed to teams taking the knee for the duration of the season, players across the EFL have been left in a difficult position following a lack of leadership on the issue,’ the PFA statement continued.
‘The survey conducted by the PFA has shown overwhelming support for continuing to take a knee, and we hope this gives the EFL and the clubs involved the information needed to support the players.’
Some critics, including one government minister, has linked BLM with with far-left political beliefs.
The gesture in support of Black Lives Matter was booed by Millwall fans before their home Championship game against Derby on December 5, and in their next match against QPR, players stood arm-in-arm instead.
During the match, QPR players Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel took the knee to celebrate a goal against Millwall.
The PFA slated the EFL for ‘lack of leadership’ as the Premier League has committed to the gesture for a season, while there is no such widespread backing from the Football League
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (left) and City’s Fernandinho seen last Saturday
On Tuesday Cambridge United manager Mark Bonner hit out at the ‘disgusting’ behaviour of fans who booed as the players took the knee before their League Two win over Colchester at the Abbey Stadium.
Cambridge players Harvey Knibbs and Kyle Knoyle both posted on Twitter that they were ‘appalled and embarrassed by the section of fans who booed’ the players taking a knee, saying: ‘It’s 2020 and the action is a symbol of solidarity.’
There have been similar incidents at Colchester United and Exeter City’s home grounds since the return of fans to stadiums over the last few weeks.
The gesture of taking the knee before matches became widespread when football returned following the spring coronavirus lockdown, during which Black Lives Matter protests spread around the world, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US.
While many see the act of taking the knee as a symbol of anti-racism, some football fans have questioned its links to BLM, which in the UK has become associated with the toppling of statues and far-left political beliefs.
In the wake of the backlash against the Millwall booing, Environment Secretary George Eustice called BLM a ‘political movement,’ that doesn’t reflect ‘what most of us believe’.
Booing was heard when Cambridge players took the knee before their game with Colchester
Chelsea’s Reece James (left) and Kai Havertz take the knee before their game at Wolves
Cambridge manager Bonner insisted that taking the knee was simply about tackling ‘systemic racism and inequality’ after the incident at his club on Tuesday night.
He said: ‘I’m disgusted to be honest, it shines a light on our club for all the wrong reasons.
‘What was a really good game for us on the pitch was overshadowed by a really small minority that decided to boo in a moment when we’re reflecting the values that everyone at our club believes in. It is just behaviour which is unacceptable and at our club we don’t want that at all.
‘What was most encouraging is the vast majority drowned them out quite quickly with applause and reflected the values of our club much better.
‘We work incredibly hard in the community and there’s massive work that goes on to highlight all these issues and we’ve clearly got some work to do because some people have embarrassed our club and embarrassed themselves to be honest.’
He added: ‘What pleases me most is the small minority that booed were soon drowned out by loud applause by the majority that understand that this is about systemic racism and inequality. We’re right to back that message.’
Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick and Aston Villa players are seen here taking the knee
THE PFA’S FULL STATEMENT ON PLAYERS TAKING THE KNEE
This week, in light of recent negative crowd reactions and some clubs exploring an alternative to players taking the knee, the PFA has been in consultation with its membership on the issue.
The results were clear; players overwhelmingly support continuing this act of solidarity despite any adverse responses that may be received.
The consultation included a dialogue directly with PFA Delegates and a survey circulated to all Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and Women’s Super League (WSL) squads.
Throughout 2020, PFA members have demonstrated a strong understanding of the societal issues raised across the world and have used their platform to highlight the impact racism has on both individuals and wider communities.
The decision to take the knee before matches was initially made by Premier League captains during Project Restart, to show solidarity with Black people facing discrimination globally.
This powerful symbol of solidarity represents the players’ commitment to anti-racism and is not an endorsement of any political position. It is a peaceful act of unity that highlights a persistent and systemic issue.
PFA Equalities Executive, Jason Lee stated: ‘The initiative has been player-led from the outset. The purpose of the discussions and survey was to make sure that we were continuing to represent what the players wanted on this issue. We can now take this position forward with authority when in dialogue with media, clubs and the EFL.’
The positive statements from Colchester United and Cambridge United send a clear message that racism will not be tolerated. The PFA commends their actions which should be considered a benchmark of good conduct.
While the Premier League has already committed to teams taking the knee for the duration of the season, players across the EFL have been left in a difficult position following a lack of leadership on the issue.
The survey conducted by the PFA has shown overwhelming support for continuing to take a knee, and we hope this gives the EFL and the clubs involved the information needed to support the players.
The PFA’s primary goal will always be to support members and protect their right to use their platform for change. We will continue to offer our backing to players, in whichever form they choose to protest against racism, and we urge all clubs, leagues and football authorities to do the same.