Have your say: Do you agree with Priti Patel that taking the knee is 'gesture politics'?

·Freelance Writer
·3-min read

One of the most high-profile games in recent years will take place on Friday when England and Scotland face each other in Euro 2020.

Scotland players will take the knee before the game in solidarity with their England counterparts, who have been using the pre-match gesture as a protest against racial injustice.

The England team have drawn criticism and support in recent days over the practice, with home secretary Priti Patel describing it as “gesture politics”.

And some fans booed when England made the anti-racism statement before their opening match of Euro 2020 at the weekend.

A Number 10 spokesman said Boris Johnson wants the public to “cheer them on, not boo” at the tournament and explicitly supported those who decide to take part in the protest.

But Patel took a different stance when questioned on the issue this week – and did not criticise booing fans, saying it was a “choice for them”.

Watch: Taking the knee: England's Tyrone Mings focuses on 'hugely positive reaction'

She told GB News: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well.”

Pressed on whether she would boo the team for taking the knee, Patel added: “I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that.”

However, Michael Gove appeared to contradict Patel’s comments, saying people should have the opportunity to show their “strength of feeling against prejudice”.

Asked if he would be supporting people to take the knee before the coming game, Gove said: “I think that people who want to show their strength of feeling against prejudice should have the opportunity to do so.”

Labour MP David Lammy said Patel’s comments were “a shocking attempt to stir up division”, tweeting: “We should all get behind the team – politicians included.”

Home secretary Priti Patel refused to criticse fans for booing England taking the knee. (Getty)
Home secretary Priti Patel refused to criticse fans for booing England taking the knee. (Getty)

The practice, a symbol of anti-racism solidarity, gained attention in American football in 2016 as players protested against police brutality and racism in the US.

The act spread further and was adopted by many in the UK during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, including before Premier League matches. 

The criticism levelled at footballers is that they should not be linking themselves to a political movement. 

England manager Gareth Southgate has said of his players: "It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: A general view inside the stadium as players of England takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium on June 13, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
England players take the knee in support of racial justice prior to their UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match against Croatia. (Getty)

For his part, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said taking the knee before football games is “a choice for each team” as he refused to condemn Scotland for deciding not to perform the gesture, apart from when they play against England.

But he added: “I profoundly don’t think you should boo your own team before kick-off.”

Read more: Footballers taking the knee is symbolism more than action, says minister

Watch: Gareth Southgate vows England players will continue taking the knee

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