Speaking on LBC on Friday morning, the prime minister said, “I do not believe in gestures, I believe in substance.”
This came a month after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said he would not take the knee in support of the BLM movement, arguing that protest is “a matter of personal choice”.
Mr Johnson told LBC radio host Nick Ferrari: “I don’t want people to be bullied into doing things they don’t necessarily want to do.”
Citing the fact that some officers in London allegedly felt coerced into taking the knee because their colleagues had done so, the prime minister said he believed the police should not make the gesture.
Instead of kneeling in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests, Mr Johnson said he would rather do things that made a “practical difference”.
He told listeners: “I’d rather see a story of championing success and talking about the opportunities we can open for young black people. That’s what I want to see.”
As well as expressing his plans for the future, Mr Johnson also harked back to his time as mayor of London, saying that black representation in the Met Police had “massively increased” during his time in charge of the city.
He added that he wanted to see this sort of action implemented across the country.
The prime minister’s comments contrast with the action taken by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who was pictured taking a knee in his parliamentary office last month.
Last month, Mr Raab, who stepped in for Mr Johnson during the prime minister’s time in hospital with coronavirus, faced an angry backlash after falsely suggesting that the act of taking the knee came from the TV series Game of Thrones.
Social media users responded by posting pictures of Martin Luther King carrying out the action during the civil rights movement.
The foreign secretary said: “I’ve got to say, on this taking a knee thing, I don’t know, maybe it’s got a broader history but it seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones [sic], feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation. But I understand that people feel differently about it so it’s a matter of personal choice.”
In response, David Lammy, a Labour MP and the shadow secretary for justice, said: “This is not just insulting to the Black Lives Matter movement, it is deeply embarrassing for Dominic Raab. He is supposed to be the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom.”
During the global protests sparked by George Floyd’s death in May, the act of taking the knee has been a way of showing support for the anti-racism BLM movement.