Brentford’s players will stop taking a knee, starting with Sunday’s game against Barnsley, after deciding football’s anti-discrimination gesture “no longer” has impact.
The protest initially sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement has polarised opinion in the Championship more than any other sporting competition in England.
QPR had stopped taking a knee after Les Ferdinand, the Championship club’s director of football, said that the impact of the gesture had become diluted.
EFL members have since been meeting to discuss alternative demonstrations, after anti-BLM jeering, initially from fans at Millwall’s match against Derby.
In December, a Professional Footballers’ Association survey suggested players across the tiers wanted to continue taking a knee, but Brentford last night said “as a group of players, we have decided” to stop.
“This decision has come after lengthy discussions as a group,” the club added. “We have been taking a knee before games since June but, like many of our fellow players at other clubs, 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.”
The announcement comes after in-form striker Ivan Toney became one of the many recent victims of racist abuse on Instagram. “As a group we are fully behind and proud of Brentford’s desire to become the most inclusive club in the country and the drive towards equality under the #BeeTogether banner,” Brentford added. We have experienced racist abuse first hand and have also seen some appalling comments made to other players past and present.”
Jon Varney, the club’s chief executive, added: “There have been detailed and lengthy discussions on this topic both in the playing group and across the club. Taking a knee is just one way our players have been showing their commitment to racial equality. We supported their desire to do it and we now support their desire to focus on other ways to show this commitment. We have been very clear in our ambition to be the most inclusive club in the country and our players want to and will play a big part on this journey.”
Last month Brentford recognised club officials had paid to do background checks on a security guard Steven Green, who was recently fined by a magistrate for using the n-word in a video posted on social media. The 39-year-old had been employed by the club last summer despite a previous conviction for football-related violence.
Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha – who has himself been subjected to online abuse – agreed that the symbolic gesture of taking a knee before matches has become “degrading” because of a lack of meaningful change.
Speaking to the On The Judy podcast, Zaha said: “The whole kneeling down – why must I kneel down for you to show that we matter? 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.
“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. Change it. All that stuff that you lot are doing, all these charades mean nothing.”