The knee isn’t working it’s time for something else 

Sport across the world has seen an uprise in social protests these last few years.

Tackling racism in sport has been a hot topic since San Francisco 49ers Quarterback and American civil rights activist, Colin Kaepernick decided to take the knee in protest against the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in 2016. This also includes the police shooting of Charles Kinsey and the acquittal of police in the death of Freddie Gray.

The protest gained worldwide attention and was hit with both approval and disapproval across both sides of the American political aisle. People felt kneeling during the American national anthem was sacrilege towards patriotism and veterans who sacrificed for America. Others thought it was needed after the shootings of black people, a community plagued with a long and dark history with America and it’s police force.

Fast forward to May 2020. The police  were again involved in an incident that was rightly condemned by all sides. The murder of George Floyd increased rising racial tensions that had been dimmed but not turned off completely. It only made it worse, a feat that is remarkable with America’s racial history.

America like always, set the standard and the world followed in its outrage over the murder. Social media across the world was awash with activism supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. People stood in solidarity from the UK to France against racism. Corporations like Sky, Bumble and Cisco endorsed the BLM movement with slogans across websites about tackling racism.

The Premier League took a stance against racism by getting football players to take a knee before kick-off like their American counterparts. A welcome stance against fighting inequality and prejudice. 

We are nearly a year on since the unfortunate death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. Players continue to take the knee in the fight against racism. This whole campaign has become diluted and obsolete due to the continuation of incidents around racism in football.

The move was well-intentioned toward fighting racism in football, but every passing week it has become less impactful and more of an empty gesture.

Past and present black players like Glen Kamara, Axel Tuanzebe, Anthony Martial, Ian Wright and others have all been involved in racial abuse since the Take The Knee Movement.

In September 2020, Queens Park Rangers director of football, Les Ferdinand said the impact of taking a knee “had been diluted”.

“The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge”, Ferdinand said in a statement on the QPR website.

Ferdinand continued, “taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will”.

QPR agreed with Coventry and match referee Steve Martin, not to take a knee ahead of the game, a move that was met with much criticism and disdain at the time.

More and more people have refused to take the knee, not out of choice but as an attempt to move the discussion and movement in another direction. The knee has lost its power due to time and frustration of no change coming from it.

What has changed, not a lot, to be honest, racial incidents continue to happen to players.. it’s time for further action yo be taken. 

Crystal Palace forward, Wilfried Zaha has been subject to lots of racist abuse online by trolls. Last week Zaha decided to stop taking a knee before matches as he stood before kick-off against West Brom last Saturday.

“I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine, and at the moment it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse”, said Zaha.

He also added: “As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people abusing others online – not just footballers”.

Glen Kamara, the Rangers player, was allegedly on the end of vile racist abuse during their Europa League clash with Slavia Prague last week. Kamara alleged defender Ondrej Kudela whispered “you’re a f****** monkey, you know you are” into his ear in the closing stages of the defeat at Ibrox.

The following week Celtic played Rangers in a dead rubber. Both sides refused to take the knee in support of Kamara. A gesture led by Dundee United and Motherwell.

“We won’t take the knee”, Rangers manager, Steven Gerrard told ​Sky Sports before the match​.

“I spoke to both my captains yesterday, and they’ve made a collective decision that they’re going to stand, and they’re going to stand together side by side, and we’ll support that and follow suit as a staff as well.

“I wasn’t aware of the chat that the players have had among themselves but James [Tavernier] and Connor [Goldson] have come to see me yesterday and I totally understand the decision that they’ve made. I totally back it 100% and we’ll do the same as staff to show them support”.

English clubs Brentford, Bournemouth, Derby County and Millwall have all said they will continue to stand in solitary.

The conversation needs to be moved towards social media companies taking accountability. In my opinion, every social media account must be linked with a passport and facial recognition set up when creating an account. Many players have continued to be racially abused over poor performances, which is ridiculous. A bad performance isn’t a reason to discredit someone based on skin colour.

The FA and the Premier league need to hand lifetime bans to people who racially abuse players at games. The Raheem Sterling incident at Chelsea last season was a prime example. Every club should cut all ties with any supporter or player who express themselves through racist remarks or gestures. Players should walk off the pitch in union if this continues to happen. It’s a wonder why this hasn’t become the norm. 

Taking the knee was a grand gesture at the time, but it’s now time to move forward and tackle racism properly like it should be; no exceptions, no tolerance. We have come a long way in terms of football diversity but it needs to go so much further if it wants to champion itself as the beautiful game we all know and love.

featured image credit sky sports