Priti Patel has said she does not support England’s footballers taking the knee in protest against racial injustice, labelling the act “gesture politics”.
The home secretary did not condemn football fans who had booed players for taking the knee, calling it a “choice for them” after Gareth Southgate’s side faced jeers from a minority of fans at their first match of Euro 2020.
Her comments come after a Number 10 spokesperson said the prime minister wants the public to “cheer them on, not boo” at the tournament, and explicitly supported those who decide to take part in the protest.
But Patel took a different stance to Boris Johnson, telling GB News:
I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well.
She claimed the Black Lives Matter protests last summer had a “devastating” impact on policing. And she criticised the toppling of the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. She told broadcaster GB News:
It’s all well to support a cause and make your voices heard. But actually, quite frankly, and we saw last year in particular with some of the protests that took place, I speak now very much from what I saw in the impact on policing.
It was devastating. Not only that, I just don’t subscribe to this view that we should be rewriting our history, pulling down statues, the famous Colston statue, and what’s happened there.
Toppling statues is not the answer. It’s about learning from our past, learning from our history and actually working together to drive the right outcomes.
Asked whether England fans were right to boo the national team, she said:
That’s a choice for them, quite frankly.
And when pressed on whether she would boo the team for taking the knee, she added:
I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that.
Booting out racism in football
The symbol of anti-racism solidarity gained attention in American football in 2016 as players protested against police brutality and racism in the US.
The act has since spread further and was adopted by football players in the UK partly to demonstrate that racism should not be tolerated in the sport.
But there have been incidents of a minority in the crowd booing players as they take the knee before games, including before England’s friendly matches against Austria and Romania last week.
A minority of England fans once again defied calls not to jeer the players as they took the knee before kick-off in the Euro 2020 clash with Croatia on Sunday.
Requests not to boo fell on some deaf ears, with an audible round of jeers from some of the expected 22,500 crowd at Wembley. Cheers from the vast majority soon drowned them out, though.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said taking the knee before football games is “a choice for each team”. He refused to condemn Scotland for deciding not to perform the gesture, except for when they play against England.
But he added: “I profoundly don’t think you should boo your own team before kick-off.”
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?