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First Premier League player vows to stop taking the knee

The first Premier League player vows to stop taking the knee as he called for football to move on from the “degrading” anti-racism protest.

Wilfried Zaha has repeatedly expressed belief that taking a knee is “degrading” and has demanded players “stand tall” in the fight against racism.

Since last summer, players, officials and staff at Premier League and EFL games have been taking a knee before kick-off to show support for the movement towards Black Lives Matter.

Premier League clubs have changed up their shirts to carry the BLM slogan during the 2019-20 season before being changed this season to feature a patch promoting the league’s own anti-discrimination campaign No Room For Racism.

England manager Gareth Southgate believes the gesture is still hugely powerful and has not lost its message, however racist abuse of footballers on social media has got worse in recent weeks with several teams, including Brentford last weekend, stopping taking a knee.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha, speaking at the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit, said: “I’ve said before that I feel like taking the knee is degrading and stuff because growing up my parents just let me know that I should be proud to be black no matter what and I feel like we should just stand tall.

“Because I feel like taking the knee now, it’s becoming… we do it before games and even sometimes people forget that we have to do it before games.

“Trying to get the meaning behind it, it’s becoming something that we just do now and that’s not enough for me. I’m not going to take the knee, I’m not going to wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my shirt because it feels like it’s a target.

“We’re isolating ourselves, we’re trying to say that we’re equal but we’re isolating ourselves with these things that aren’t even working anyway, so that’s my stand on it. I feel like we should stand tall and now I don’t really tend to speak on racism and stuff like that because I’m not here just to tick boxes.”

He added: “Unless action is going to happen, don’t speak to me about it.

“I’m not really an activist but if I’ve got a platform to try and make a change, why not?

“No matter how small my platform is compared to other people, I don’t see why I would not say anything on something that means a lot to me and means a lot to other people so it’s a thing where I feel like I have a duty to do what I can really.

“Marcus Rashford, he’s got his platform there and he’s pushed through to make things happen and some people just tell him to stick to football and stuff, but how can you say that if he’s probably feeding your child?

“So obviously certain footballers will just play football and go home, but I feel like with the opportunity you have to broaden your horizon and do more, you only live once, why not? Then, if you can inspire people at the same time you’re doing it – it’s a win-win.”

Brentford’s Ivan Toney said to Sky Sports: “We have had a long discussion about that; why we are not taking a knee. Everyone has had their say, and everyone agrees [that] we have been taking the knee for however long now and still nothing has changed.

“We are kind of being used as puppets, in my eyes; take the knee and the people at the top can rest for a while now, which is pretty silly and pretty pointless. Nothing is changing.

“The punishments need to be stronger. You’re going to do so much and, in a way, you have to get that helping hand, but it doesn’t look like it’s coming at the moment. So you have to push for that and hopefully things change.”

Fans reacted as the first Premier League player vows to stop taking the knee, see what users on social media had to say below…

@virgvandeezy: Just bin all the symbolism and get on with the footy eh lads

@Shannxo: Or… Bin the symbolism and actually do something about the racism

@TheViolentArts: Agree with the general sentiment, I think the knee taking has somewhat had its moment, just frustrating knowing the gammons will absolutely relish in a black player saying this, regardless of context

@Adam1Marj: He’s 100% right, good on him for standing up (both literally and figuratively) for his beliefs.

@allthreeofthem: If the white football establishment thought they were “off the hook” by sanctioning this gesture at the start of every game, think again. What’s needed is real change and while BLM might have started a conversation, after 6 months there’s been no progress. Zaha is right.

@VBG_10: They had to stop taking the knee some time. It’s the right time now.

@GarySwollylfc1: Finally a bit off sense

@AudiOdane_: You know what it’s become and empty vessel just like the clapping done for the NHS. It’s like a means to pacify, with no real action fur change. This isn’t a solely a grassroots problem, it’s every bit of society’s problem.

@samhill909: He’s got a point. It’s been dragged on. At first it was a powerful message and now it seems a bit forced, the kick it out campaign should be more prominent now without the kneeling

@Alan50583050: Well done to @wilfriedzaha stand tall and don’t let this organisation use you like so many were used throughout history.

@KaiserKev71: Zaha has spoken the most sensible words I have heard since this whole knee BLM BS.

@rfnapps: Big fan of Zaha stepping up here. He knows what it’s all about now. He wants actual change. Not just doing it for the sake of doing it.

@mattyadders: Don’t do it then, stand tall, be proud of who YOU are and make your own statement. #KickRacismOut

@ryanator109: He’s bloody spot on too! There’s also a huge difference between the organization BLM and standing up against racism. You can do one without supporting the organization which stands for much more than just plain racism….

@markhenry967: It has become irrelevant. Nobody ever won a fight on their knees. In the words of Bob Marley. “Get up stand up for your rights” @wilfriedzaha

@andrew87mccabe: Thank God someone finally says what everyone is afraid to say out of fear of being called a racist!

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