Taking the knee has lost its impact, says Ferdinand
League clubs had no plans last night to stop taking a knee, despite Les Ferdinand comparing the gesture to “a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge” in an angry defence of Queens Park Rangers’ refusal to continue performing it.
QPR’s director of football, one of the most senior black figures in the English game, spoke out following criticism of the Championship club’s shunning of something adopted by sport this year to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Premier League teams have taken a knee in every match since football resumed following the coronavirus crisis, but English Football League sides are split over whether to do so and almost half did not perform the gesture during games played between Friday and Sunday.
QPR were among them after deciding it had failed to lead to meaningful change.
“Taking the knee was very powerful, but we feel that impact has now been diluted,” Ferdinand said. “In the same way ‘Clap For Carers’ was very emotional for us all, it got to a stage where it had run its natural course and the decision was rightly made to stop it.
“Does that mean we, as a nation, don’t care or appreciate our NHS workers? Of course it doesn’t.
“No one is more passionate than me about this topic. I have spoken on the matter throughout my footballing life. I work for one of the most diverse football clubs in this country. A lot of people are being fooled out there.
“Recently, I took the decision not to do any more interviews on racism in football because the debate was going around in circles. People want
a nice soundbite when something happens, but how many of the media who have criticised QPR over the past 48 hours genuinely want change?
“The taking of the knee has reached a point of ‘good PR’, but little more than that. The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.
“What are our plans with this? Will people be happy for players to take the knee for the next 10 years but see no actual progress made? Taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will.
“Our under-18s were forced to abandon a game in August 2019 against AD Nervion FC due to racist abuse. More than 12 months on, Uefa refused to deal with the situation and the Spanish FA did nothing.
“What media coverage has been given to that? Not nearly as much as what has been granted to QPR not taking a knee. Don’t judge us. Simple research and evidence will show you we are doing more than most. If you want change, judge yourselves.”
Lee Hoos, QPR’s chief executive, added: “To be blunt, anyone who thinks our players condone racism because they didn’t take a knee really doesn’t get it. Anyone who responds to Black Lives Matter by saying all lives matter really doesn’t get it. Anyone who thinks just taking a knee is sufficient in fighting social injustice really doesn’t get it.
“People need to do something more than simple gestures.” Premier League clubs told The
Daily Telegraph yesterday their players would continue to take the knee before matches, something agreed in a meeting of team captains before the start of the season.
The EFL said it was for individual clubs and their players whether they took the knee, a policy that has come under fire from teams who are demanding it takes more of a lead.
Sanjay Bhandari, chair at Kick It Out, said: “We know racial injustice and other forms of discrimination did not end when the last season ended. We encourage the players to continue to protest in whatever form they feel comfortable.”