England defender Tyrone Mings has said that it remains important for the players in the squad to continue taking the knee before games in order to fight racism within the sport and in society as a whole, educating those who continue to boo the anti-racism protest.
It comes after UK home secretary Priti Patel this week publicly opposed taking the knee, controversially labelling it ‘gesture politics’. Prime minister Boris Johnson had urged fans not to boo ahead of England’s opening Euro 2020 game against Croatia, but only after an official spokesperson had previously declined to condemn those booing the anti-racism protest.
Other senior Conservative MPs, including Patel, have refused to condemn the booing, or in some cases even actively defended it. Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed booing is a response to ‘wokeness’.
“We spoke and [Priti Patel] invited me onto a Zoom call once, where she seemed so interested and engrossed in players’ kind of point of view and what we could do more to tackle these sort of issues,” Mings is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“But at the same time, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. The home secretary is one of many, many people that oppose us taking the knee, or refuse to defend it.
“We have our own set of beliefs and what we think we can do to help or be players that can be influential and can stand up for what we believe in, and understandably when you have such strong beliefs there will be opposition to that.
“We’ve spoken about it a lot,” he continued. “We’ve spoken about trying to educate or trying to inform the minority who refuse to acknowledge why we’re taking the knee and want to boo it.
“But at the same time, in Wembley there was a hugely positive reaction to us taking the knee as well and I don’t think that should be overshadowed by a minority that refuse to accept what the reasons are or don’t agree with them.”
Booing still persisted when England players took the knee ahead of kick-off against Croatia on Sunday, but it was largely drowned out by applause and support.
A minority of vocal fans have wrongly convinced themselves that footballers taking the knee to protest against racism is a politically motivated act representing Marxist values because of certain claims about Black Lives Matter.
A statement released on behalf of the England team last week pleaded with the public to fully support the team, explaining that taking the knee is personally important to the players as a ‘mechanism of peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice, and inequality’.
The statement also sought to explain that the history of taking the knee as a means of protesting racism and inequality can be traced to the 18th century, significantly pre-dating the 19th century political ideology its detractors and critics now claim it is linked to.