LibLink: Christine Jardine: Football racism shows why those who oppose taking the knee are wrong

In her column for the Scotsman this week, Christine Jardine tackled the racism we saw against the three England footballers after the Euro 2020 final.

A young colleague told me that some black friends had abuse shouted at them while making their way home from the England-Italy game. “It’s always your kind that lets us down.” We all knew it was there, simmering amongst those who booed any team taking the knee this summer.

But watching it boil over against fans, footballers and someone who has made a real and determined difference to the well-being of vulnerable children should be a wake-up call for all of us.

She expressed her admiration for Marcus Rashford and the other players:

A young man, hugely successful, who doesn’t just remember where he came from but carries it with pride and channels his success into making a difference.

But that did not protect him from the bigots when they found their excuse in the simple fact of a football bouncing back off a post instead of into the net.

Rashford, Sancho and Saka are young men with astonishing talent at the start of careers in which they have the potential to achieve fantastic things on the football pitch. And they do.

Politicians of all parties, she said, have a duty to call it out. And she warned against thinking that Scotland is somehow some progressive utopia:

In Scotland, the most recent figures, for 2019 to 2020, show that there were 1,737 recorded racially aggravated incidents.

But those do not include every time young people are shouted at in the street, have comments muttered at them or are asked by strangers where it is they come from when the answer is here.

I know from friends, and my MP inbox that black people and ethnic minorities in this country are made to feel uncomfortable every single day.

She says that gestures like taking the knee are important stands against complacency and examples of solidarity:

Over the past two years, we have seen an awakening in this country of the need to recognise and address the racism which infected our history and has been endemic in our society.

Taking the knee at sports events was a small but constant reminder that we mustn’t be complacent.

Those who dismissed it as an unnecessary gesture have surely been given the starkest of illustrations this week of why they are wrong.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • My guess would be that those who oppose it are opposed to the means not the goal.
    It’s performative and ritualistic, thereby likely counterproductive.
    It’s in education, parentage and social cohesion where answers are found, but these don’t fit well into a social media world where instant media fixes peel away from reality.
    Look at the language – ‘taking the knee’ as opposed to kneeling. It’s an empty gimmick.

  • Jayne mansfield 21st Jul '21 - 12:09pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Christine Jardine.

  • John Marriott 21st Jul '21 - 2:39pm

    Seeing sportspeople etc ‘taking the knee’ reminds me of the stance taken by black US 200 meter runners on the podium at the medals ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympics. There were three athletes on the podium on that evening almost a lifetime ago. Splitting winner, Tommie Smith, and bronze medal winner, John Carlos, was white Australian, Peter Norman, who supported their black power salute and had actually suggested that Smith and Carlos share a black glove, as the latter had left his pair behind at the Olympic Village.

    Of the three the one who really suffered later was Norman, who was virtually ostracised by his country and, despite having the qualifying time, was denied the chance to compete in Munich four years later. Smith and Carlos never forgot what he did and both came to Australia to act as pall bearers at Norman’s funeral in 2006.

    Gestures are cheap, some may argue. They can, however, land you in a whole load of trouble. However, it’s often the reaction afterwards that says a lot more about society than any brief moment of protest.

  • I agree with Christine too.

    I don’t buy into the claim that it’s performative and ritualistic, and therefore counterproductive. When one of your objectives is to get and keep people talking about the existence of racism, then doing something that gets people talking is smart.

    Surely most of the whistles and bells that come with sport are performative and ritualistic. Whether it’s the singing of national anthems, the singing of unofficial anthems, the chants, the waving of flags, mascots, bringing the ball out in a remote controlled car and complaining about the referee. Football is merely a show within a show.

    Those who are keen to oppose racism, but think players should be doing something else that will more effectively focus the nation’s minds are free to offer suggestions, but I don’t think taking the knee is counter productive. Yes, it might annoy some of the racists, but it doesn’t makes anyone racist. White people might notice a bit more of the racism, but it’s not new to black people or those who spend time with them.

  • Jason Conner 21st Jul '21 - 6:10pm

    I agree with J Patrick. You can still oppose racism as I do but also oppose the empty gesture of taking the knee, its links to BLM and anti Semitism. It’s just like the London Mayor’s candle lit vigils, they make no difference to knife crime. I have black friends who think the same. I would much rather support Kick It Out and Hope Not Hate. But rather than take the knee do any of you who so support it actually take action against racists at football matches? I do and reported a male spewing racist abuse at black footballers who was then banned and then challenged a young person/junior for making inappropriate comments.

  • Jayne mansfield 21st Jul '21 - 7:43pm

    @ Jason Connor,
    I applaud you for tackling racism straight on, but I have to disagree with you that taking the knee is an empty gesture. I am in absolute agreement with Fiona on this. I also think it is wrong to suggest that those who take the knee or support the taking of the knee do not challenge racism by confronting racists face on too.

    I too support Kick it out, and as the CEO Tony Burnett has said, ‘Gareth Southgate and the England players have made their position clear- they are taking the knee as an anti discrimination gesture. It is no way linked to any political organisation, so lets support the England team and players and unite against racism and all forms of discrimination’. He and the FSA urge supporters to drown out the boos players receive when they show this solidarity.

    I am also a supporter of Hope not Hate and I refer you to what they say on their website about taking the knee.

    My ire is directed at those such as Priti Patel who refused to condemn booing the symbolic gesture, something she should be ashamed of given the appalling abuse, much of it racial that some fine members of our team received.

  • J Patrick

    ‘My guess would be that those who oppose it are opposed to the means not the goal.’

    Isn’t it the link (perceived or otherwise) to the anti capitalist / de-fund the police Black Lives Matter organisation,which for good measure is led by a multi millionaire US property developer.

  • George Thomas 22nd Jul '21 - 8:45am

    At football games I have experienced: i) 2 minutes round of applause/silence before the game, ii) 1 minute round of applause before the game, iii) round of applause on a certain minute, iv) singing a specific song on a specific minute, v) minute’s silence.

    My point being that football is now well acquainted with gestures to mark something important and that most gestures last longer (in terms of the gestures themselves) than taking a knee for 10 seconds which could easily be confused with everyone checking their laces are done up – I can’t believe anyone is truly worried or challenged by this blink and you’ll miss it gesture.

    In order to make this gesture matter we need the conversation, learning and action to go alongside it. But, as ever, there are people who have nothing who don’t want anything to change and people who have everything who don’t things to change so they’re rubbishing this reminder to start a conversation as a way to oppose any real change from happening.

  • J Patrick 21st Jul ’21 – 10:21am…………..My guess would be that those who oppose it are opposed to the means not the goal………

    Really? I wonder how many who posted racist tweets, after the match, supported either the kneeling or rhe aims..

    As for an ’empty gesture’…Southgate has made it abundantly clear that kneeling is “an anti discrimination gesture. It is no way linked to any political organisation”. What about that is worthy of opposition, unless you refuse to believe Southgate and, like some Tory MPs, consider him and the team to be Marxist/Nazi sympathisers?

    Rosa Parks’s action was a ‘gesture’; after all she was not the first to refuse to move…I’m sure, in the aftermath of the incident, many Montgomery citizens supported her goal but not her means….

  • The most effective, and moving action of this kind I have seen at matches is everyone holding up their phones with the torch turned at a pre-arranged time in the match to honour a much loved commentator. In the dark, this was spectacular.

  • john oundle 22nd Jul '21 - 8:03pm


    ‘Really? I wonder how many who posted racist tweets, after the match, supported either the kneeling or rhe aims..’

    Not up to date with the latest figures,but 75 racist tweets were investigated last week of which 5 originated from the UK.

  • Jason Conner 22nd Jul '21 - 9:44pm

    I don’t need your applause. I just get on with it challenging racism at football grounds, whether it’s by an individual fan if safe to do so or notifying the club authorities without the need for a meaningless gesture. You’re making assumptions which are not there. If you re-read my post I did not state that the take the knee people do not challenge or confront racism but I don’t have to agree with your method of doing it. That’s being absolutely clear. I am not sure if you attend football matches and what action you take? The movement that spawned it already has links to anti Semitism so why condone that. There are all kinds of sexist, homophobic and xenophobic chants add to that ageism at football grounds but you don’t see vacuous reactions to deal with that. I stick by my comments and there are members of hope not hate and kick it out opposed to taking the knee but you will not hear from them in case they’re psychologically bullied by its proponents.

  • Simon Robinson 22nd Jul '21 - 11:44pm

    @expats As for an ’empty gesture’…Southgate has made it abundantly clear that kneeling is “an anti discrimination gesture. It is no way linked to any political organisation”. The issue here is whether taking the knee implies support for Black Lives Matter, with all its controversial stances that many non-racists would very legitimately disagree with. BLM in the UK is a movement rather than a single organisation, so saying the gesture is not linked to any organisation doesn’t really mean anything in this context. Taking the knee is now very strongly associated in the public mind with BLM; also, the team have separately also specifically indicated support for BLM. So on balance, it rather looks like they were probably trying to express support for BLM by making the gesture. If they weren’t, it seems a pretty naive choice of gesture given how it was obviously going to be widely interpreted.

    Either way, given how strongly taking the knee is associated with BLM, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect everyone to support it. BLM is associated with too many anti-liberal things that many non-racists (including me) would strongly disagree with.

  • Jayne mansfield 23rd Jul '21 - 8:15am

    Why the anger directed at those who take the knee? In what way does it cause harm to those who choose not to? It is a choice.

    Why is this awareness raising, symbolic act so threatening to some?

  • john oundle 22nd Jul ’21 – 8:03pm…expats..Not up to date with the latest figures,but 75 racist tweets were investigated last week of which 5 originated from the UK……

    That means nothing..Proxy servers, VPNs, etc are easily available…An acquaintance (an avid football fan) has multiple addresses which, he tells me, enables him to get tickets for England’s away matches..
    I’d imagine, if you intend to send such stuff, giving the impression of being ‘foreign’ based would be a priority..

  • If it was ‘only five persons’ who broke into Wembley, booed the Danish National anthem, and then the Danish team every time they gained possession……., and later expressed their attitude to certain English players, and afterwards behaved aggressively towards Danish fans ……. then they must have had excessively loud voices.

  • Jayne mansfield 23rd Jul '21 - 3:25pm

    @ @expats, @ David Raw,

    Did you watch Steve McQueen’s moving three part documentary series, Uprising ?

    As septuagenarians like myself, I dare say that you shared some of my experiences of race relations over time. For me personally, an awareness that began when at the age of eighteen, I left a mining area where the only dark skinned persons, were white miners with coal dust on their faces, to a city where for the first time I met, befriended and was befriended by black people.

    Over the years I saw those who became friends not only face overt racism, but also covert racism in education, and then career opportunities.

    The film was a painful reminder of how slow it has been to make progress. Yes there are some gains, people marrying across so called ‘racial’ boundaries with the blessing of their parents etc., but the monkey noises and other forms of racial abuse directed at our team is a depressing reminder of how much further one needs to go.

    As Fiona quite rightly states , and if she doesn’t mind, I will from now onwards, quote extensively the succinct explanation she gives for why taking the knee is not counter-productive . ‘Yes it might annoy some of the racists, but it doesn’t make anyone racist. White people might notice a bit more of the racism , but its not new to those who are black or spend time with them.

  • Jayne mansfield 23rd Jul ’21 – 3:25pm..@ @expats, @ David Raw,Did you watch Steve McQueen’s moving three part documentary series, Uprising ?…

    What struck me most about the documented aftermath of the New Cross Fire was the polarisation from both sides and that hasn’t changed that much in 40 years..

    The ‘soft’racism of Johnson..but, as he keeps telling us, his words ‘were taken out of context'(despite apologists for his lchoice of languager like the Spectator’s Brendan O’Neill I’d like to know in what context they could be anything other than racist remarks), the inherrent police bias in the Stephen Lawrence murder, the shoddy, error strewn government report on race (castigated by contributors and organisations), etc. shows that racism in the UK is still there (if less overt than in 1981)…

    What the racial abuse of those three young black players shows is that you don’t have to scratch off much of the ‘polish of 40 years’ to find that the cancer still exists…

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Aug '21 - 3:29pm

    If freedom means anything then taking the knee, disapproving of it and disapproving of those who disapprove etc are all legitimate. The thing is to learn not to take much notice of others beliefs and actions if you don’t agree with them. Harmless expressions of belief are to be encouraged.

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