Players to show support for anti-racism as part of RFL Tackle It campaign

Players will have a chance to show their opposition to racism before matches this season, the Rugby Football League have confirmed, but that won’t necessarily mean taking a knee.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 18th March 2021, 5:37 pm
Leeds Rhinos' Konrad Hurrell takes a knee before a Super League game last season. Picture by Alex Whitehead/
Leeds Rhinos' Konrad Hurrell takes a knee before a Super League game last season. Picture by Alex Whitehead/

The pre-match gesture will be in support of the governing body’s own Tackle It campaign against racism and other forms of discrimination, rather than allied to the Black Lives Matter movement.

There will be a 13-second window before kick-off at all men’s league and cup games, plus women’s and wheelchair fixtures, when match officials will ask teams to line up on the 20-metre line facing their own dugouts.

The practice caused controversy from both sides last year with some critics claiming it allied the sport to a political movement, while others hit out at players who refused to kneel.

Wakefield Trinity's players stand before a game against Catalans Dragons last year. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Though most players did opt to take a knee, there were some high-profile exceptions - including Catalans Dragons’ Israel Folau - and Wakefield Trinity’s players decided as a group to stand with arms linked.

RFL spokesman Andrew Donnelly said: ”What you see will be player-led, which is consistent with other sports.

“We are keen for players not to be misunderstood, or criticised or feel isolated in whatever we do and we want them to be respected for their individual choices and feel comfortable doing whatever they choose to do in that 13-second window.

“We’ve said to the players this is an opportunity to demonstrate your support for anti-racism if you so wish.

“There is no RFL mandate or expectations on this.

“It is about creating space for players should they wish to take advantage of that 13-second window, especially the ones who didn’t get an opportunity last year.”

The RFL’s director of corporate and public affairs , Sarah-Jane Gray, added: “I know, from speaking to some players and players’ representation on the players’ union and the new inclusion board, some players absolutely will take a knee.

“Other will not, other will stand still and all of those choices are [down to] individual players.”

Super League have confirmed they fully support the RFL’s action plan.

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