If there is any action that has generated debate and division at the same time in the current history of football, it is “bending the knee.” Bending the knee started in 2020 after the death of an African American George Floyd, who was killed brutally. George Floyd died after a policeman placed his knee on the neck for an elongated duration. He died out of suffocation. Protests arose in different parts of the world condemning the action and overall treatment of Black people by the police. It became a rallying call against racial discrimination and impartial application of justice on Black people.
South Africa has been at the center of racial injustice but several good things are coming out of this country, with one of them being several betting sites with bonus in South Africa so head there and also get more on boxing bets as Kate Richardson explores whether sports persons should continue to bend the knee given that racism is rampant in the field and off the pitch.
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England has vowed to continue
Before we dwell on the question let’s first see who has been kneeling and why they have been doing it. England players have been kneeling and they have indicated that they will continue to do so. They have done it in the European Championships. They are expected to do so in the coming tournaments. There was a heated debate on this and they were supposed to make a decision.
We have seen them kneel during the Euro Cup, this shows that Gareth Southgate’s team will persist with the gesture that is supposed to bring to the limelight racism sentiments that have been expressed on and off the pitch. The continued gesture according to those who have been doing it sends a powerful message. To the fans and everyone else; that all players regardless of their race need to be treated equally and with dignity. England has been in the news where some players have been subjected to racial slurs and other treatment which are degrading.
Those who have been for it see the need to continue passing the message especially on events that attract huge crowds and viewership. European Championship is one of the events which is watched by millions of fans as well as attended by a relatively large audience. Making the gesture in such events is seen as very impactful. These are the sentiments that may have informed the England team to continue passing the message. Given that the gesture was started when teams were playing in empty stadiums it would not make sense to stop it when the fans are back. Many feel the need to be continued to have a huge impact.
Political statement vs social justice
UEFA position on political statements may be used by critics of the “bend the knee” movement to justify the ban, but the proponent has argued that this should be taken as social justice as it affects even the players.
Even those who may not be affected have a responsibility of sensitizing against racial mistreatment as keeping quiet only exacerbates the situation. Also, the fact that UEFA and other European federations have been strong advocates of diversity in football, it is assumed that they will support the action as a way of leading from the front.
Strong sentiments for and against
There have been strong sentiments against taking the knee; some are totally against it, terming it useless while others see it as hypocrisy. Some are demanding more action, they feel taking a knee cannot be the only thing that helps tackle discrimination and racism. They are demanding action rather than gestures. There are concerns that what has come to be referred to as a pre-match ritual may not be driving the intended message.
Extremism and its infiltration in the pitch
Then there are those on the extreme side, the kind who are opposed to the ritual not for its ineffectiveness to tackle social injustices but due to the political connotations that are attached. Some strongly associate it with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.
They see it as an extension of black supremacists, a trend that has been growing especially among groups that are threatened by the empowerment of black people. When such sentiments are brought into the football field, a gesture that started as a means to raise awareness on racism in sports loses meaning. It is seen as a competition and fighting to gain attention for two extreme sides.
Use other strategies
It would not make sense to continue with the gesture if it becomes a political tool. It should only be used to pass a strong message against social injustices. Extremists regardless of whether they are in support or are opposed should not be allowed to infiltrate a noble idea. If it causes divisions to an extent of protests that are being witnessed in some countries, perhaps the proponents need to rethink and come up with other ways of addressing the roots of racism in the football and sports fraternity.
As the debate continues, all eyes will be on the pitch, some to see who takes or does not take the knee. We are this divided. These are the divisions that proponents of the “bend the knee” movement wanted to heal. Now the question is; is the gesture healing us? Should we continue dividing the fans? These are pertinent questions that all need to reflect on when deciding on whether to continue taking the knee or not.