Tory MP complains of ‘torrid week of abuse’ after boycotting England games over players taking the knee

Watch: Tory MP complains of 'torrid week' of abuse over England Euro 2020 boycott

A Tory MP who has been boycotting England's Euro 2020 games over players taking the knee has complained of a "torrid week" of abuse.

After The Three Lions beat Denmark in the semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday, Ashfield MP Lee Anderson confirmed on Thursday that he will not be watching the final versus Italy on Sunday.

Last month, Anderson announced he would refuse to watch England’s games in a protest against players making the anti-racism gesture before games start, saying taking the knee "is not the way".

Labour campaigners in his constituency poked fun at Anderson this week, hiring out an advert van reading: “Football’s coming home? Not according to Lee Anderson MP!”

England's defender Harry Maguire takes a knee before the start of the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium in London on July 7, 2021. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
England defender Harry Maguire takes the knee before the Denmark match on Wednesday. (Frank Augstein/pool)

One party campaigner labelled it a "pathetic one-man boycott", while Anderson was also widely mocked for his stance after England reached its first major men's tournament final in 55 years.

In a video posted on his Facebook page on Thursday afternoon, Anderson – who was wearing an England t-shirt – said he has "had a bit of a torrid week, lots of emails, a bit of abuse... about my decision not to watch the England matches".

He went on: "That's my decision, I'm not forcing my views on anybody else.

"I don't like the taking the knee business, I think it associates with the Black Lives Matter movement. I know the England players don't think it does, but it does to me."

While taking the knee is an anti-racism gesture, some, like Anderson, argue it is also showing political support for the Black Lives Matter campaign group.

England manager Gareth Southgate has previously insisted this is not the case, and that England's players are "supporting each other".

Anderson went on: "That's their choice to take the knee and it's my choice not to watch the matches. But I will be supporting England on Sunday night, checking my phone for updates to see if they've scored, and cheering if they have.

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"I hope they win and I hope it 'comes home'."

The team has been booed for taking the knee by a minority of fans at games before and during the tournament, though the jeers have always been drowned out by applause from other fans.

When Anderson's stance was put to Southgate on 5 June, the England manager was asked what he would say to people who take that approach. He said: “Well, we’ll be very sorry to see them go."

Watch: England squad train ahead of final against Italy