Dominic Raab has said he will only take the knee for two people — the Queen and “the Mrs” when he proposed.
Asked for his views on footballers taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter as the Premier League restarted, the foreign secretary revealed his views on the gesture, which has become a symbol of support for the anti-racism movement.
On Wednesday night, players from Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Arsenal – as well as officials and backroom staff – took the knee at the start of their games as the football season resumed.
Raab said: “I understand this sense of frustration and restlessness which is driving the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve got to say on this taking the knee thing — which I don’t know, maybe it’s got a broader history but seems to be taken from Game of Thrones — it feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation.
“But I understand people feel differently about it so it’s a matter of personal choice.”
He went on: “I take the knee for two people – the Queen and the Mrs when I asked her to marry me.”
He added: “By the way, she disputes that... I’m sure I did but we’d obviously had too much champagne at the time, but I’m certain I did.”
As he faced anger and mockery for his comments on taking the knee, the Foreign Secretary later tweeted: “To be clear: I have full respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the issues driving them.
“If people wish to take a knee, that’s their choice and I respect it. We all need to come together to tackle any discrimination and social injustice.”
Football teams across the UK have shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with many releasing pictures and statements.
Earlier this month, the chairman of football's equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out called on every Premier League player to take a knee.
After Wednesday night’s match, in which the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ were emblazoned on the backs of his players’ shirts, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said more still needs to be done to combat racism.
He said: “We should send a thousand million messages for the black people, because more than four centuries, four hundred years, to do what we have done to this kind of lovely people, I’m embarrassed.
“I’m ashamed for what white people have done for the black people.
“All the gestures are good, are positive, but you have to do it with facts. I think it’s not going to be solved in a few days, but everything we can do to make conscious it isn’t acceptable in the 21st century.
“This kind of thing is not just in the USA. Everywhere, all around the world. We have to do a lot of things for the black people that we have not done so far.”