While Premier League soccer players will proceed to take a knee to protest racism this season, they said Wednesday that the gesture would not happen at every game.
Players will kneel, for instance, on the Premier League’s season-opening games this weekend, and again on Boxing Day (Dec. 26); during two weeks dedicated to racism awareness in October and March, on the ultimate day of the season and before the F.A. Cup and League Cup Finals.
“We remain resolutely committed to eradicate racial prejudice, and to bring about an inclusive society with respect and equal opportunities for all.” the captains said in a press release released by the Premier League. The players said they believed the gesture would have more impact if performed less steadily.
Premier League players began kneeling for a couple of seconds after the opening whistle when matches resumed after a pandemic hiatus in June 2020. The protest coincided with Black Lives Matter protests in the USA and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis.
The gesture was inspired by the previous N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other American athletes who had taken a knee before games or throughout the national anthem, and was widely adopted in leagues and sports in Europe and elsewhere. Players on dozens of teams have taken a knee before international matches, and girls’s squads — though not all of them — did the identical throughout the recently accomplished Euro 2022 women’s championship that ended on Sunday.
Premier League players had continued to kneel before every game, and players at many games in lower-tier leagues in England have done the identical.
The gesture brought praise in some quarters. “I feel the facility each time the players drop down and show solidarity,” said Troy Townsend, the top of development at Kick It Out, a nonprofit organization that promotes equality and inclusion in soccer. But a couple of Black players dismissed it as a mostly empty gesture that did little to bring real change. Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace, who grew up in England but plays for Ivory Coast’s national team, stopped kneeling in early 2021. He said the protest “has just grow to be an element of the prematch routine.”
The kneeling occasionally drew boos, each in England and more steadily when English teams traveled abroad. England fans were jeered by a few of their very own supporters before games resulting in last summer’s European Championship.
And in June, when the England players knelt before a game in Hungary, they were jeered by a crowd largely made up of kids under 14; most adults were banned due to racist chanting by Hungary fans at earlier games.
The kneeling was not universal, either. Many teams from other nations didn’t kneel before games, making for a sometimes incongruous sight at Champions League and international matches: the players from English teams and clubs on one knee before kickoff, while their opponents stood only yards away, waiting for them to rise so the sport could begin.