Brentford’s players have announced they will no longer take the knee before matches, starting with Sunday’s game against Barnsley.
The pre-match gesture in support of the Black Lives Matter movement has been a constant part of football since games resumed in June after the first coronavirus lockdown. Racist abuse of footballers has been widespread in recent weeks and Brentford’s squad believe the demonstration is no longer having an impact.
A statement posted on the Championship club’s website and Twitter feed read: “As a group of players, we have decided we will no longer take a knee before the start of matches. This will begin when we face Barnsley tomorrow, Sunday 14 February.
“This decision has come after lengthy discussions as a group. We have been taking a knee before games since June but, like many of our fellow players at other clubs, no longer believe that this is having an impact. We believe we can use our time and energies to promote racial equality in other ways.
“As a group we are fully behind and proud of Brentford’s desire to become the most inclusive club in the country and the drive towards equality under the BeeTogether banner.
“We have experienced racist abuse first hand and have also seen some appalling comments made to other players past and present. There is a clear need to continue to push for an end to all discrimination and, as players, we will be part of that at Brentford FC, in football in general and in the wider community.
“Togetherness is one of our key values as a group and plays an important role in helping us move towards reaching our goals. Racism is the opposite of what we stand for.
“As players we will show our commitment to togetherness and racial equality on and off the pitch between now and the end of the season, and beyond. We will also support our colleagues at other clubs that still want to take a knee before games.”
Chief executive Jon Varney added: “There have been detailed and lengthy discussions on this topic both in the playing group and across the club. Taking a knee is just one way our players have been showing their commitment to racial equality. We supported their desire to do it and we now support their desire to focus on other ways to show this commitment.”
Manchester United trio Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe, West Brom midfielder Romaine Sawyers, Chelsea full-back Reece James and his sister Lauren, who plays for United’s women’s team, have all suffered racist abuse on social media after recent games.
Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha this week described kneeling before games as “degrading”. Speaking to the On The Judy podcast, Zaha said: “The whole kneeling down - why must I kneel down for you to show that we matter? Why must I even wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my top to show you that we matter? This is all degrading stuff.”
QPR previously decided not to take the knee before their game against Coventry in September, with director of football Les Ferdinand responding to criticism of that move by suggesting: “The taking of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR’ but little more than that. The message has been lost.”
Several Scotland rugby players were criticised for not kneeling before last week’s Guinness Six Nations win over England. All players from both sides remained standing before Scotland’s game against Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday.