Premier League players will no longer take the knee before games during the 2022/23 season in a move away from the anti-racism gesture.
The move was voluntarily instigated in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by an American policeman back in May 2020, with the Black Lives Matter campaign becoming more prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic.
But now the captains of a number of Premier League sides, after consulting with their teammates, have come together to agree on a new way of promoting the cause. A joint statement from them reads:
We have decided to select significant moments to take the knee during the season to highlight our unity against all forms of racism, and in so doing we continue to show solidarity for a common cause. We remain resolutely committed to eradicate racial prejudice, and to bring about an inclusive society with respect and equal opportunities for all.
Players will take knee before a series of pre-arranged fixtures on the calendar, with some of the most prominent – such as the games played on Boxing Day and the domestic cup finals – chosen for maximum exposure. Players and staff will also take the knee before the first round of games this weekend and the final set next May, as well as during the dedicated No Room for Racism fixtures in October and March.
The decision was taken as many felt that the gesture had lost its power when deployed every single week – the idea now is that the ‘less is more’ approach will instead get supporters and TV viewers thinking about the subject once it is used less frequently.
Premier League chief, Richard Masters, confirmed that the taking of the knee was always voluntarily agreed by clubs, and that there would be no sanctions for those that don’t conform to the gesture at the designated fixtures. “We met with the captains last week, they’re still totally committed to the issue,” he confirmed. “It’s up to the players to decide themselves, and we support them in whatever decision they make, as do the clubs.”
How Did Taking the Knee Begin?
Although the taking of the knee became commonplace in English football in 2020 as part of Project Restart during the pandemic, as a statement against racial injustice it has been around since the mid-2010s.
Former American football star, Colin Kaepernick, is considered to be the originator of the gesture in a sporting context. To the backdrop of Donald Trump’s election to the White House and simmering civil tensions, he began to take the knee during the habitual playing of the American national anthem prior to NFL games.
So tone deaf are Trump and his advisors that they called for players that took the knee during the anthem to be sacked – making a mockery of the ‘land of the free’ hyperbole, nut that never came to pass as more and more NFL stars and those in other sports joined forces to make their stand and take the knee.
The death of Floyd pushed the message of the Black Lives Campaign yet further, and it was in May 2020 that English football games would be preceded by the players taking the knee as well. That remained in place for two whole seasons, although some Championship clubs during the 2020/21 campaign – including Derby, Brentford and Bournemouth – decided to stop taking the knee and allow their players to express themselves in other ways.