The action was first performed in sport by an NFL player called Colin Kaepernick, who took the knee during the national anthem, before a match in 2016. He announced, “I am not going to get up to show pride in a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.” The gesture became more common during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of 2020. Football players and staff have been taking a knee since June 2020 and many Premier League players have continued this season. Before the 2020 European Championship, England manager Gareth Southgate said that his players would take the knee. Numerous other teams, including Scotland, Wales, Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland, also chose to show support for the anti-racism movement.
In spite of that, there was some opposition to taking the knee, from some prominent figures. The Home Secretary Priti Patel said that she did not support “people participating in that type of gesture politics”. However, when tweeting about the disgust she felt when English players were subjected to racial abuse, England football player Tyrone Mings criticised and accused the Home Secretary of hypocrisy, saying: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.” The former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated that it was a “symbol of subjugation and subordination”. Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player to not take a knee before games, declaring he viewed the act as “degrading”. In addition, Brentford ceased taking the knee as they believed the action no longer had the desired effect. Nonetheless, the English Football League has promised to support any player or staff member who wishes to take a knee before games this season.