Barnes berates Southgate for defending players’ BLM-style taking of the knee

England legend John Barnes has lashed out against woke dogma that has entranced English football’s elite, if not its fans, the national side in particular.

In a series of tweets, the former winger blasted manager, Gareth Southgate for not understanding “how complex racism is”.

Barnes’ intervention comes on the back of an extraordinary ten days in sport. In two successive England friendlies, fans booed the players taking the knee, which repulsed pundit, Gary Lineker.

Liberal media figures like Lineker take the view that booing the gesture is an attack against fighting racial prejudice, whereas many fans would argue it is aimed purely at the controversial Black Lives Matter movement strongly associated with the gesture.

Meanwhile, England bowler Ollie Robinson was suspended from international cricket for politically incorrect tweets dating back to his late teens. He has apologised and received support from both the prime minister and the culture secretary, but the ban still stands.

Southgate then inflamed the situation by defending the England camp’s pre-match kneeling policy after Nigel Farage had strongly urged him to not get politics mixed up in sport.  

“I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players,” wrote Southgate in a letter addressed to “England”.

“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.”

He went on to add that England players’ role in society is heightened by the platform given by social media. “In fact, I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades,” he added, going on to contentiously assert, “despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.”

Kicking off a discussion on Twitter in the aftermath of Southgate’s extraordinary letter, Barnes reiterated his support for Ivory Coast and Crystal Palace forward, Wilfried Zaha (pictured above), the first player in the Premier League to refuse to take the knee.

Had he “played for England and decided not to take the knee, would Southgate then say we won’t take the knee and we’ll support him?” wondered Barnes. “What does GARETH think is the right thing to do? take the knee, don’t take the knee, or just support what the players want?”

Later in the thread, he accused Southgate of being someone who “follows the crowd” indicating that while the England manager “should support his players” he should be his own man too.

“But what does HE think… forget the players… that’s what an ally is… someone who believes HE’s doing the right thing, not one who follows the crowd, as the crowd may change direction,” Barnes wrote.

In another post, he wrote: “I’m 100% behind Gareth to try to win the euros but he doesn’t understand how complex racism is and solutions are even more complicated and he and the team are being used by the system to DEFLECT from REAL inequality in the inner cities by SOLELY focusing and concentrating on football.”

England play Croatia in their first match of Euro 2020 on Sunday. The Athletic have learnt that the Croatian players will stand while the England players kneel.

On Tuesday, just before a match between the Republic of Ireland and Hungary, the Irish players chose to take the knee while the Hungarian players stood up and pointed to the UEFA “Respect” anti-racism badges sewn into their jerseys.