The England players have taken the knee for all their matches in the group stage of the Qatar World Cup.
Here’s a look at the history of the anti-racism gesture in sports:
HOW DID IT START?
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then a player for the National Football League (NFL) side San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem before a pre-season game in 2016 and knelt down in another game, sparking debate about race relations, policing and the mixing of politics and sports.
Kaepernick later knelt during pre-match renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by many NFL players to draw attention to what they perceived as a pattern of racism in the treatment of African Americans by US police.
Kaepernick became a free agent after that season and has not been signed by another team since. His activism was seen by some as a reason why teams were wary of signing him. The protests also angered then-US President Donald Trump, who called on the NFL to ban players who kneel during the national anthem.
DISTRIBUTION OF MOTION
The Black Lives Matter case was taken up by Premier League clubs in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
Top English clubs wore the Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts before it was replaced by “No Room for Racism”. England’s men’s and women’s teams have been kneeling before matches since 2020, initially in solidarity with protests over Floyd’s death and then in support of equality.
Athletes in other sports have supported the move, most notably Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka at the 2020 US Open, where she wore a mask bearing the name of another Black American victim of police brutality before her matches.
Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, won the title and was praised for her activism.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the only black driver in Formula 1, has also been a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement with pre-race anti-racism gestures.
CRITICISM OF PROTESTS
Critics of the protest, including conservative politicians, say it politicizes the sport and dislike the gesture’s link to the organized element of Black Lives Matter, which some see as a far-left movement.
A YouGov poll published in June last year found that 54% of supporters in England were in favor of players “getting down on their knees”, while 39% were against.
England manager Gareth Southgate supported the gesture on the sidelines and joined in the gesture by saying black players need to feel solidarity after a bombardment of abuse online and at some matches. He said his players had “taken our stance as a team” after being booed by Hungarian fans as they got down on their knees before their friendly in Budapest last year. England went through the knee during the European Championship last year.
Premier League teams decided to limit kneeling to just a few key games of the 2022-23 season.
England were joined by Wales in taking the knee before the two teams faced each other in their final Group B meeting on 29 November. It was the first time at the tournament that Wales had made the gesture