Des Bieler, Washington Post, June 13, 2021
Some fans at London’s Wembley Stadium booed Sunday when players for England took a knee ahead of its Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
The boos were met by loud cheers from others in the stadium, per reports. The English team had made it clear before the tournament that they would continue to make the gesture as a show of support for racial justice, and the country’s Football Association had requested Saturday that everyone in attendance “remember that we should all be united in the fight to tackle discrimination.”
England went on to win, 1-0, over a Croatian team that did not take a knee. The Croatian Football Federation said Friday that it and the team “strongly condemn any and all forms of discrimination” and “also respect the right of every individual and every organisation to select the circumstances and the manner in which they will take a stand against racism and/or other forms of discrimination.”
Players in the English Premier League have been taking a knee since last summer, when play resumed following a coronavirus-related hiatus and amid widespread protests of racial injustice that began in the United States after the death of George Floyd.
Before a pair of home friendlies this month when the English team played tuneup matches ahead of the Euro 2020 tournament, there was some booing of the gesture, at which point Manager Gareth Southgate said: “We feel more than ever determined to take the knee through this tournament. We accept that there might be an adverse reaction and we are just going to ignore that and move forward.”
A fan who said he attended those two friendlies explained (via bbc.com) that he booed what he saw as “an identity politics agenda that focuses on Black people and skin color, when as far as I am concerned we are all England fans regardless of color.”
Through seven matches thus far in the tournament, other teams that have taken a knee before their matches include Belgium, Switzerland and Wales. Belgian players heard booing as they knelt before a match in St. Petersburg against Russia, which did not take a knee. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku, whose parents immigrated to that country from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, raised a fist as he knelt.
“I think racism in football right now is at the all-time high,” Lukaku said last week, citing the power of social media.