Celtic and taking the knee as English Premier League agree to a new strategy
Taking the knee before kick-off has become customary in British football since its return after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent initial lockdown.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin [The Independent] and subsequent reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement inspired football and other sports to adopt the gesture as a symbol of solidarity with the victims of racist abuse.
It was initially made famous when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the American national anthem before a match in 2016.
As reported by The Athletic, Premier League clubs have agreed this week to take the knee on specific occasions rather than before every game – a decision reached by the captains of the 20 clubs.
Some English Championship clubs have long since abandoned taking the knee, with individual players in the Premier League refraining from performing the gesture throughout last season, starting with Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha in February 2022.
Zaha, in particular, chose to refrain whilst his teammates kneeled as a personal choice as he felt that it had simply become part of the pre-match routine, not as a conscious action, and that it felt degrading to kneel whilst racist abuse remained rampant. [The Guardian]
Celtic should clarify their stance
Celtic haven’t taken the knee before either of their Scottish Premiership games so far this season, and are yet to comment on the future of the gesture, with city rivals Rangers echoing the Premier League’s decision to use it sparingly at designated times.
Whether Celtic decide to no longer take the knee at all or adhere to its infrequent use, it’s a stance that the club should issue clarity on. This shouldn’t just be to confirm their intentions to supporters but to affirm what measures that Celtic are taking to support their own players – particularly those who have been on the receiving end of racist abuse in the past.
Ultimately, the decision shouldn’t alter the club’s plans to fight racism either way. With Celtic’s history, and slogan of “A Club Open to All” it’s an issue that should be at the forefront of the club’s social endeavours – the knee merely serving as a public symbol of these efforts.
It’s a discussion that the players themselves should be at the forefront of too, should the discussion not already have taken place. If the players whom the gesture is supposed to offer solidarity towards no longer feel represented or empowered by it, then it’s something the club should rightly abandon.
The gesture should only be the bare minimum of football’s efforts to combat racism, and in itself is only still meaningful if it’s accompanied by concentrated efforts to educate, inform, and ultimately work to remove prejudice from the sport for good.
Taking the knee should not be seen as an obligation or a tick-box exercise but as a reminder of the ongoing fight against racism both in football, and in wider society.
In other news: Ange Postecoglou singles out “real special” Celtic performer.