In a statement released by the Premier League, the division’s captain reaffirmed their commitment to fighting racism and discrimination in all forms but have opted to change the way they communicate this message.
Hailing from abolitionist and civil rights movements from centuries past, the gesture was initially adopted in a sporting context by San Francisco 49ers quarter-back Colin Kaepernick, who first knelt during the US national anthem to draw attention to police brutality and racial inequality in 2016.
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Since the start of the 2020/2021 season, Premier League players have been taking the knee ahead of kick-off, while Gareth Southgate’s England players also committed to the gesture during the Euro 2020 tournament.
The gesture has been the subject of controversy, with boos heard at various top flight grounds across the country while players take a stand against discrimination.
Critics have argued that the protest is ‘empty’, that it loses its power through repetition, and Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha claimed it was ‘degrading’ as he became the first player to stop taking the knee.
This term, Premier League players have decided to amplify the protest by picking specific moments in the season in order to make the gesture.
Instead of every game, players will take the knee before kick-off in each team’s opening game, the dedicated No Room for Racism matches in October and March, the Boxing Day games, final day matches and at the FA Cup and EFL Cup Finals.
On Saturday at Elland Road, United players will kneel before facing their first Premier League game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but won’t repeat the gesture until their dedicated No Room for Racism fixture in October.
In a statement, the Premier League captains explained: “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.”
Meanwhile, the Premier League has matched the £119,000 raised by sales of No Room for Racism badges on club shirts last season to make up a £238,000 total to be donated to designated youth clubs.