English Premier League players have taken the knee in games since before mid-2020 to demonstrate their support for the fight against racism and other forms of prejudice. However, the Premier League has announced that the pre-match gesture will only be performed at designated times for the remainder of the season. It will not be made by players this weekend for the first time in more than two years.
The gesture continued on the opening weekend of the 2022–23 season before the kick-off as well.
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“Ahead of the new season, Premier League club captains have reaffirmed their commitment to fighting racism and all forms of discrimination. The players have decided to use specific moments during the upcoming campaign to take the knee, to amplify the message that racism has no place in football or society,” a statement released by the Premier League read.
“The Premier League supports the players’ decision and, alongside the clubs, will use these opportunities to elevate anti-racism messaging as part of the League’s No Room for Racism Action Plan,” it added.
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“Players will take the knee during the opening match round of the season, dedicated No Room for Racism match rounds in October and March, Boxing Day fixtures following the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Premier League matches on the final day of the season and The FA Cup and EFL Cup finals,” the statement continued.
The Premier League captains also released a statement to announce their decision regarding the usage of the gesture.
“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,” the captains’ statement read.
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The decision has divided opinions among the Premier League fans and followers. Rio Ferdinand argued that the gesture is still a “strong” tool against racism and discrimination and disagrees with Premier League captains’ decision to stop taking the knee prior to every game.
“Are we saying racism has been eradicated from the game now by stepping away from it a little bit? How do we choose which games we are going to do it at? These questions need answering,” Ferdinand told BT Sports.
On the other hand, Callum Wilson of Newcastle United and Michail Antonio of West Ham United supported the Premier League’s decision to limit clubs’ pre-match anti-racism gesture of “taking the knee” to only a select number of important games this season.