Taking the knee

Why football fans are still booing players taking the knee

On the opening day of this year’s season, I went to see Chelsea play Crystal Palace. The match programme featured an article on Paul Canoville, Chelsea’s first black player. I remember watching him in the 1980s when he was racially abused by his own fans. Large sections of the crowd taunted him with monkey chants and racist slurs. Outside on the Fulham Road, bigots sold National Front News and urged fans to ‘Keep Britain White’. This grotesque spectacle wasn’t confined to Chelsea. At every ground, black players faced abuse from supporters. We’ve come a long way since then. A few years ago, Paul Canoville returned to Stamford Bridge and did a

Taking the knee isn’t the best way of showing black lives matter

As a black football fan who grew up going to matches in the seventies and eighties, I know more than most about the beautiful game’s troubles with racism. I can still remember my own club West Ham United being the first English Football League side to select three black players in their starting team on Easter Saturday 1972; and I can still recall, for two seasons in a row, a particular section of fans in the old west side stand ‘Sieg Heil’ saluting during every home game. Nowadays, racism in football is less obvious but it still exists – and it needs to be called out. But I’m convinced that

What the England team doesn’t get about ‘taking the knee’

England’s players being booed by their own fans is not a new phenomenon. But for the booing to be about politics rather than obnoxious personalities and tournament underperformance is. The furore over players taking the knee represents a new and exciting stage in the testy relationship between team and fans, in which each can take actions calculated to annoy and upset the other side, while believing themselves to be entirely in the right. The England team – in the words of manager Gareth Southgate – believe they’re just ‘trying to move towards equality and support our own teammates.’ For the FA, taking the knee is nothing more than ‘a show

Olympics’ organisers could regret banning ‘taking the knee’

Knee-taking and fist-raising protests have been banned at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee warning athletes who flout the rules that they will be punished. The IOC clearly hopes this will mean the delayed and accursed Olympics – already set to be loaded with a slew of joy-killing Covid restrictions – can take place without the additional burden of political controversy. That’s the theory, but could it all backfire? At first glance it looks as if the IOC has been clever. Rather than issue a top-down declaration, they canvassed 3,500 athletes asking whether the current Rule 50, which bars all political demonstrations on the podium (not specifically the knee or the