Taking the knee as an act of solidarity against racism continues to have the overwhelming support of professional footballers, according to the players’ union.
The gesture was booed by Millwall supporters before their home Championship game against Derby on December 5, and in the Lions’ next match against QPR a decision was taken for the players to stand arm in arm instead.
However, the Professional Footballers’ Association says it has consulted with its membership and the vast majority want to continue taking the knee. The PFA also accused the EFL of showing “a lack of leadership” over the issue.
“Players overwhelmingly support continuing this act of solidarity despite any adverse responses that may be received,” a union statement said.
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 members on the issue.
Players overwhelmingly support continuing this act of solidarity.
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— Professional Footballers' Association (@PFA) December 18, 2020
“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.”
Millwall Supporters’ Club said the booing was targeted at the political views of the Black Lives Matter organisation, and not motivated by racism.
QPR players Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel took the knee to celebrate a goal against Millwall.
Rangers’ director of football Les Ferdinand has previously spoken about how he feels the gesture has become “diluted” and is now “little more than good PR”.
Nevertheless, the PFA feels the continued support for the gesture among players provides the mandate for competitions to give it their full backing.
“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.”
— Cambridge United FC (@CambridgeUtdFC) December 15, 2020
An EFL spokesman said: “Taking the knee has, quite rightly, been a player-led initiative taken in support of the anti-discrimination and anti-racism message across football and wider society.
“The league’s position, which has remained consistent throughout this period and is a position shared across the professional game, is that we will continue to respect and support the decision of individual players who wish to take this form of action as we respect players’ freedom of expression on this issue.
“By definition it has to be an individuals’ choice as to whether they wish to ‘take a knee’ before a match if it is to remain an effective stance.
“We have provided guidance to match officials and clubs to help them support players on match days and the position has remained the same since the return of EFL fixtures in June so there shouldn’t be any confusion on this matter.
“We will continue to listen to the players’ views as part of our ongoing work with football’s wider stakeholders to tackle all forms of discrimination in our game.”
Cambridge manager Mark Bonner spoke out when a group of Us fans booed the gesture before a League Two match against Colchester on December 15.
“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,” he said.
“We’re right to back that message. We’ve clearly got more work to do because that behaviour’s unacceptable.”