Warm-up games against Austria and Romania were the first two England games in which spectators were allowed back inside stadiums since the third national lockdown prohibited it.
What should’ve been a joyous occasion was disappointingly overshadowed by the group of ‘fans’- if you can even call them that- whose boos could be heard when the England players took the knee to show solidarity against racial injustice.
On both occasions, the remaining supporters partially muted the jeers but it still highlights the need to educate all fans on what exactly taking the knee represents.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate addressed the media in the wake of the booing and has pleaded with fans who “aren’t understanding the message.”
Marcus Rashford said: “We believe it is the right thing to do so we will continue to do it.”
Vice-captain Jordan Henderson told the media that the England squad “stand together against racism,” but told Sky Sports that his teammates are “sick of talking about” their decision to keep taking the knee.
Timeline of ‘taking the knee’
In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick rocked the sporting world when he took the knee during the pre-game national anthem, in protest against police brutality towards African-Americans in the United States.
Kaepernick divided opinion, subsequently losing his place on the San Francisco 49ers roster- he is still a free agent to this day.
However, it was in 2020 where the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement gained seismic traction, sparked when US citizen George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis.
In the wake of Floyd’s murder, sports teams across the globe began to take the knee which is now vastly recognised as the symbol against racial injustice.
The Premier League and EFL, governed by the FA, adopted the gesture last summer and it has since become a mainstay, enacted briefly before every game.
Why are fans booing the knee?
Not that it’s a prize, but England fans weren’t the first to boo the knee.
In December 2020, following the reintroduction of fans back into stadiums- for the first time- Millwall supporters booed the players, as they took the knee.
Fast forward half a year, and the same problem surfaced at Riverside, instead initiated by the England collective.
Fans claim that taking the knee has ‘lost its impact’ and is merely a form of tokenism.
England players have also, more recently, been accused of promoting Marxism.
Addressing fans who boo the knee
The action of taking the knee is a choice players have, it is not enforced by football organisations, merely supported.
The same way the majority of footballers choose to take the knee, they can just as easily choose not to.
Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha, for one, has chosen not to take the knee, as it feels it is “degrading” and instead stands before matches- showing that it is not a political gesture forced by the Football Association.
Regardless of what your favourite player may decide to do, you neither have to agree or disagree with the knee- as mentioned, the choice is yours.
However, what is not acceptable is the jeers and negativity directed towards it, especially when the players have been so brave to unite and show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Football fans follow for the passion, emotion, and pure elation- an indescribable feeling- that is achieved when a team is successful.
For me, football fans should simply not be allowed to celebrate the success achieved by the players, if they cannot encourage, support, and wish success to them in their battle against racial discrimination.
Euro glory for England can inspire the nation and the prospect of this will undeniably unite the country, as it has done on many previous occasions.
Which is why, it is important that now, more than ever, regardless of what opinion you may hold, that any negativity towards players taking the knee is brushed aside- for the good of the players and the country.