Jun 13, 2021 - Sports

English soccer body urges fans not to boo players for taking a knee

Players and officials take a knee in support of the black lives matter movement during the international friendly match between England and Austria at Riverside Stadium on June 02
Players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the international friendly match between England and Austria at Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough, England, on June 2. Photo: Alex Pantling ā€“ The FA/The FA via Getty Images

England's Football Association issued a statement Saturday asking fans to respect players taking the knee to protest racism after some supporters booed the national soccer team for doing so ahead of the European Championships.

Driving the news: Ahead of England's opening game in the tournament against Croatia at London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday, the FA asked fans "that oppose this action to reflect on the message you are sending to the players you are supporting."

"Please respect their wishes and remember that we should all be united in the fight to tackle discrimination."
ā€” FA statement

The big picture: The police killing of George Floyd last year in the U.S. sparked an international protest movement calling on governments to address systemic racism, with many soccer players in countries including England taking the knee to highlight the problem.

  • A YouGov poll out this week found 54% of English soccer fans back players taking the knee, but 39% are against the action, with critics saying it politicizes the sport, Reuters notes.
  • A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that he "would like to see everyone getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo," while England manager Gareth Southgate, who's taken the knee from the touchline, issued an open letter to supporters on the importance of the protest.
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