PREMIER LEAGUE players will be asked this summer if they think it is time to stop “taking the knee”.
The pre-game gesture was introduced at the beginning of last term’s post-shutdown resumption as a response to the death of George Floyd and other racism incidents in the USA.
Footballers have been taking the knee since Project Restart as a response to the death of George FloydCredit: Getty Images – Getty
League chiefs carried it on into this season, although there has been a growing backlash from the likes of Wilfried Zaha and with QPR, Bournemouth and Millwall among the clubs who have ended the practice.
And now Prem chief executive Richard Masters said he will be consulting captains and players over the summer to decide if the symbolic gesture should be continued or halted – and what might be done instead.
Masters said: “Taking the knee last season was a big statement and it was player-led.
“For the first time, you have Premier League clubs and the players on the same page on a really important issue.
“Anti-discrimination is something we’re really committed to. Unfortunately, recently we’ve had to take on the social media companies in regard to online abuse.
“For the rest of the season you will see anti- racism messaging on players’ shirts, and the continuation of taking the knee to the end of the season.
“But if the players feel uncomfortable about it, that’s fine, too. It’s never been an instruction – always a personal choice.
“We’ll discuss with the players in the close season what we’re going to do to continue to make our feelings clear about anti-discrimination messaging going forward.”
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha feels taking the knee in the fight against racism is degradingCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Masters, who admitted the condensed season had been “brutal” for the players, also confirmed he is aiming at up to 10,000 fans returning to grounds for the last two set of fixtures.
The penultimate round will be pushed back to the midweek after the Government’s May 17 green light date, to ensure all 20 clubs get a game with supporters.
And Masters also believes the roll-out of the vaccine will ensure all the turnstiles can be re-opened allowing full houses from the start of next term in August.
He said: “Hopefully having 10,000 supporters for those games will be a fantastic finale to the end of our season.
“From the beginning of next season onwards, our goal is to have full stadia.
“That’s our ultimate goal – the return of full vibrant Premier League stadia and a return to the normal Premier League.
“We believe it’s an achievable goal. The vaccine programme has changed everything and if it works that will bring the return of full stadiums.”