More players have backed calls to stop taking the knee as they believe the pre-match ritual is becoming a ‘token gesture’.
Liam Bridcutt and Britt Assombalonga, captains of Lincoln City and Middlesbrough respectively, insist it is not doing enough in the fight against racism.
All Premier League matches this season have seen players and officials take the knee, though further down the divisions the response has become much more divided.
Lincoln captain Liam Bridcutt says taking the knee is starting to become ‘a token gesture’
Middlesbrough captain Britt Assombalonga says the gesture has to lead to something
Derby’s Wayne Rooney takes the knee while QPR’s Tom Carroll elects to stay standing
In the FA Cup first round on Saturday, 18 of the 27 ties saw players not do so ahead of kick-off.
League One side Lincoln announced last week they will stop initiating taking the knee before matches. ‘The club approached me and said “we are looking to do more rather than just take the knee”,’ Bridcutt told The Mail on Sunday.
‘My thoughts as a black player are that it is starting to become a token gesture. It is starting to be a brand and we want to do more. We want to educate people at a point in life where a lot is happening that shouldn’t.
‘We want to be doing more with the community. Our decision is not going against what it stands for. We just believe as a club that we can do more.’
QPR director of football Les Ferdinand says the message of taking the knee has been lost
Lincoln, who say they will still support other clubs who wish to take the knee, plan to send players into schools to help educate young people in the community and have also signed up to the FA’s new Football Leadership Diversity Code.
The decision to take the knee before matches was met with unified acceptance during Project Restart following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May, while the Premier League have agreed to continue it this season.
Yet for some black players, like Bridcutt and Assombalonga, there is a fear that the more the gesture is done with little consequence, the more the message is diluted and the desire for action gets quieter.
It comes after QPR director of football Les Ferdinand’s passionate explanation of why his players would no longer be taking the knee in matches, saying the impact ‘has now been diluted’. Ferdinand said: ‘The taking of the knee has reached a point of good PR but little more than that. The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.’
Three Rangers players took the knee in midweek against Derby. Middlesbrough remained standing while Nottingham Forest took the knee ahead of their game last weekend and Assombalonga confirmed that would now be permanent.
‘There’s an important point to it [taking the knee] but I just feel now there has to be action. It has to lead to something, as opposed to just being a trend. It can’t be a case of us just doing it for the sake of doing it. We want to see some action. I’ve got a little girl, and I don’t want her to be asking, “Daddy, why do you keep on taking a knee?”, and then when I explain to her, she asks, “Well, has there been any change?”, and I have to say, “Well, no, actually there’s not been any”. We didn’t take the knee today, and that’s why — because we want to see change.’
Bridcutt, too, said he did not want his two boys to have to endure the same incidents of racism he did as a young man, of being stopped and searched in the street and followed around shops by security guards.
Bridcutt does not want his two boys to endure the same incidents of racism that he did
‘They have asked me about taking the knee and what it is for,’ said Bridcutt. ‘I don’t want them to go through the struggles that I had to go through. As a young lad growing up on a poor council estate, it was a case of getting stopped and searched just for being black. Going into shops and a security guard follows you around.
‘In football, you see it with the top players like Raheem Sterling. He has taken a lot of racial abuse over his career and he’s such a young lad. As a football community, we need to start realising these things are wrong. How many years down the line are we from Show Racism The Red Card? Has it made a difference… probably not.
‘It almost got to the point where it was a brand as opposed to being proactive. We don’t just want to follow suit. We want to do more. We don’t want to be coming back to this point in five years’ time and have to ask what the knee stood for. It has kick-started bigger discussions and bigger activities among clubs and players to do more to stop it.’
Sky sources say that their campaign to fight racial injustice, which was launched in June with £30m backing, has galvanised their staff and sports pundits more than any other.
The emotional speech of former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding on Sky, detailing how racism had affected his life, helped to unite staff in insisting that the campaign must be long term.
Given the strong representation of black athletes in the sports covered by Sky, the company wanted to respond to the protests against racism that swept the USA over the summer.
Sky Sports continue to use a logo with the letters BLM, for Black Lives Matter, despite the more controversial views recently expressed by the UK branch of Black Lives Matters.