Why are footballers taking the knee at Euro 2020?

The sight of footballers taking the knee is set to become a familiar one over the course of Euro 2020 – ahead of England games, at the very least.

Fans who have followed the Premier League and other competitions in England over the last year will already be accustomed to players kneeling ahead of kick-off, while the gesture has been adopted elsewhere around Europe at times, too.

The action of kneeling ahead of a sports event began in 2016 when NFL quarter-back Colin Kaepernick did so in the US to protest racial inequality, and the gesture found its way into football last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Floyd was a 46-year-old unarmed black man shot dead by a white police officer in an incident that sparked protests around the world.

It also led to the significant growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is where the act of taking the knee becomes controversial for some observers, who declare that footballers who kneel are making a political statement rather than simply sending an anti-racist message.

As fans returned to English football grounds towards the end of the 2020/21 season, some of them booed as players took the knee before kick-off, though the noise was typically drowned out by other supporters cheering the gesture.

England players knelt before Euro 2020 warm-up games against Austria and Romania last week, with some fans booing in response.

As such, coach Gareth Southgate met with his players to discuss whether or not they should continue taking the knee during this summer’s Euros, with England playing all three of their group games in front of home fans at Wembley Stadium, where the semi-finals and final will also be held.

Gareth Southgate and his coaching staff take the knee ahead of Euro 2020

That meeting between Southgate and his players resulted in the decision that England would continue to kneel, with the Three Lions coach saying: “We feel more than ever determined to take the knee through this tournament. We accept there might be an adverse reaction and we’re just going to ignore that and move forward.

“I think the players are sick of talking about the consequences of should they, shouldn’t they. They’ve had enough really.

“As far as I’m concerned they are not going to take more questions on this through the tournament. If it happens, it happens. They’re very clear. Their voices have been heard loud and clear.

“They are making their stand but they want to talk about the football and want the focus to be on the football.”

Southgate stressed that he and his players are kneeling to send an anti-racist message, rather than one with any other political connotations.

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