England manager Gareth Southgate believes the true meaning of players taking the knee against racism is being lost, after a number of fans booed the gesture in Middlesbrough last night.
A minority of the crowd at the Riverside Stadium jeered as players from both sides made a stand before the 1-0 friendly win over Austria.
But that was quickly drowned out by the opposite sentiment, with the boos replaced by loud cheers. Players have been taking the knee since the return of the Premier League after last year’s first lockdown, as part of worldwide demonstrations against racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd in the US.
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But supporters have largely not been in stadiums since recently, and there was controversy at the back end of 2020 when crowds at Millwall and Colchester also booed when players took the knee, while there were also a smattering of jeers before the FA Cup final.
"It's not something on behalf of our black players that I wanted to hear because it feels as though it is a criticism of them,” said Southgate after saying he heard the boos.
I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don't agree with. That's not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other.
"I was pleased that was drowned out by the majority of the crowd but we can't deny the fact that it happened.
"I think the most important thing for our players to know is that all their team-mates, all the staff are fully supportive.
I think the majority of people understand it, some people aren't quite understanding the message and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.
A handful of clubs have decided against taking the knee, including Championship side Derby, while Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha says the gesture is no longer having an impact and says he is determined to “stand tall” instead.
England are back at the Riverside on Sunday for a final European Championship warm-up with Romania.
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