Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has bravely described taking a knee before Premier League football matches as “degrading”, dismissing the gesture as “meaning nothing”.
Zaha’s comments will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air by football fans tired of the empty pre-match ritual of players and referees kneeling on the turf.
Speaking on the On Judy Podcast, the former England under-21 international said: “The whole kneeling down – why must I kneel down for you to show that we matter?”
Zoning in on the Black Lives Matter movement, which has undermined its profile as an anti-racism movement by getting mixed up in far-left causes, calling into question its real purpose, Zaha added: “Why must I even wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my top to show you that we matter? This is all degrading stuff.
“When people constantly want to get me to do Black Lives Matter talks and racial talks and I’m like, I’m not doing it just so you can put ‘Zaha spoke for us’. Like a tick box, basically.”
He went on to draw an important distinction between “chat…just for the sake of it” and meaningful action to combat racism.
“’All these platforms – you see what’s happening, you see people making fake accounts to abuse black people constantly, but you don’t change it.
“So don’t tell me to come and chat about stuff that’s not going to change. Change it. All that stuff that you lot are doing, all these charades mean nothing.”
Zaha is among a tiny minority of outspoken critics of the ineffective anti-racism pose, even though the Premier League has had to clumsily rebrand its racial tolerance campaign, veering away from Black Lives Matter after the UK chapter of the movement revealed it was passionately pro-Palestine.
Is a wider shift in attitudes about to occur? On Saturday, Brentford FC’s players, who are having a terrific season, collectively decided to stop taking a knee. In a statement released on Twitter, the players said: “We will no longer take a knee before the start of matches. This will begin when we face Barnsley tomorrow, Sunday 14 February”.
The players go on to say they “no longer believe that this is having an impact. We believe we can use our time and energies to promote racial equality in other ways.”
Previously, the most high profile footballer to speak out against ineffective civil rights protest was Nottingham Forest’s Lyle Taylor.
“My support for what it is that we’re trying to achieve is absolute, but I do not support Black Lives Matter as an institution or organisation,” said Taylor said in January.
“I would request anyone looks into Black Lives Matter to look into what that organisation does and what they stand for because it’s scandalous that the world and the world’s media has got behind Black Lives Matter.”
See also: Six Nations rugby: BLM protest discarded