The Premier League has announced ahead of the new season that players have decided to use “specific moments” to take the knee. The campaign started during Project restart to support the Black Lives Matter movement that started as a result of the killing of George Floyd in 2020 and has lasted for two years.
The NFL player Colin Kaepernick used this gesture as a silent protest against racial oppression by kneeling during the American national anthem and the Premier League clubs followed in June 2020 to show their support for the movement.
The 20 Premier League captains met to discuss whether or not to continue taking the knee. Some captains, speaking on behalf of their teammates mentioned that some players feared that the gesture had lost its power and had become divisive.
In a collective statement, they said: “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 doing so we continue to show solidarity for a common cause.
“We remain resolutely committed to eradicating racial prejudice and to bring about an inclusive society with respect and equal opportunities for all.”
The players will now only take the knee during the opening round of fixtures starting on the fifth of August with Crystal Palace v Arsenal, the FA and League Cup finals, Boxing day, and during the No Room for Racism campaign in October and November.
In addition to this statement, the Premier League announced that £238,000 will be donated to selected youth clubs on behalf of the captains with £119,000 raised from the royalties of the No Room for Racism selves sold on club jerseys during the 21/22 season, the figure matched by the League.
Tony Burnett chief executive of Kick It Out said: “We support the players in whatever they decide, but we want to make sure that going forward, irrespective of taking the knee we are still talking about racism, we are talking about reasons why players had to take the knee because those issues haven’t gone away.”
The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Maheta Molango said the captions had reached their decision with the aim to find a balance on how to show their support.
He said: “We’ve spoken to the players and what we’ve heard is that they want to find a balance. They don’t want the gesture of taking the knee to become routine so that it potentially loses its impact.”
The fight to stop discrimination doesn’t stop because players aren’t taking the knee anymore, Molango said: “They are also committed to using their platform and their voice to continue to bring attention to what remains an extremely important issue, not just in England but around the world.”
Players like Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha stopped taking the knee in 2021 stating that the gesture had lost its significance. He said: “At the moment it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse.”
Despite this, Crystal Palace manager, Patrick Vieira urged players to keep taking the knee. He said: “It’s good to keep taking the knee. I think it’s good because we can’t stop straight away because there is a statement to make and I believe it is important to keep taking the knee.”
Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta has also urged Premier League clubs to continue to send a strong anti-racism/discrimination message.