Words By Jason Sewald
2020 has been a trash year for most of us with the pandemic, and all but 2020 brought one of societies biggest plights to the forefront. Of course, I’m talking about racism. Black people have campaigned and protest racism since it’s inception. The tragic death of George Floyd has brought the discussion of racism and police brutality to almost all sectors of the media more significant than ever before. So much so that the Premier League started a BLM campaign where players are taking a knee in solidarity.
And this is where the trouble starts. Since its introduction, specific teams and players have criticised the action by stating it is not enough to take the knee and that the FA has to do more to tackle racism in the game. The most vocal of them being Zaha, who explained on a podcast that taking the knee is useless as black players still receive a ton of disgusting messages from anonymous trolls.
While I agree with him to an extent, saying it is “useless” sends an entirely wrong message. Taking a knee is a symbol, and symbols NEED to be repeated to get the message across, but I also know it is not enough. The FA does need to make more of an effort, but I think teams or players refusing to take a knee shows a lack of knowledge about the power and meaning behind the action.
Taking a knee and demanding more from the FA are not mutually exclusive, which is the fatal mistake many players and teams make. Not doing this gives the online trolls more ammo in undermining the campaign and, therefore, the discussion around racism as a whole.
I can understand certain teams not taking a knee because their core fanbase is racist, to begin with, and football these days is a business where the bottom line at the end of the day is profit. Millwall stands out (let me not talk about Italy because that’s a different conversation). The backlash they received from their ultras was quite visible to see. That is exactly why NOT taking a knee is wrong because it gives the illusion that we agree with those trolls.
I don’t claim to have the answers, and I know Zaha’s comments are in the right place. Still, a man of his position (players like him too) should have a responsibility to uphold the current idea and demand more, maybe like a union for black and minority players… Apply tangible pressure on the organisations because deep down, we all know the FA doesn’t “really” care, so we HAVE to make them care. Throwing tantrums and complaining that things aren’t enough doesn’t help, so why not be the change you want.